20. Baba Deep Singh ji
Baba Deep Singh Shahid (26 January 1682 -13 November 1757), is one of most honoured martyrs in Sikh history. He was the founder of the Shahid Misl (group). He was the first head of Damdami Taksal. He was an exceptionally brave Sikh. A bold and fearless saint-soldier he was ever ready to risk his life for the Panth. Baba ji was born on January 26, 1682 (some records register this as January 20) and died fighting at Amritsar on November 11, 1757 when he was about 75 years old. From about 12 years of age, he grew up around the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. He spent most of his life as a custodian of the Panth (Sikh community). He and Banda Singh Bahadur are recognised as the most honoured martyrs of the Panth who, together set a unique and amazing example for the community to follow for many generations. Not only was Baba ji a brave and fearless soldier but a very intelligent scholar who had mastered several languages. From the time when Guru Gobind Singh came to Damdama Sahib, Baba ji was responsible for the distribution of the Guru Granth Sahib to other parts of the world and was the "head granthi" (head priest) of Damdama Sahib in Bathinda.
Baba ji was a great Sikh scholar who became a soldier and martyr for the defence of Sikhism.
Stayed at Anandpur Sahib where he spent about 8 years learning Gurmukhi from Bhai Mani Singh along with the art of horsemanship, archery as well as other arms training.
At the age of eighteen, he received Amrit from the Panj Pyare at Anandpur Sahib in the presence of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Between 1705 and 1728 Baba Deep Singh and Bhai Mani Singh produced a number of hand written copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib for distribution among the Sikhs.
Baba Deep Singh became head "Granthi" at Damdama Sahib.
Fought in various wars - In about 1709, Baba Deep Singh Ji joined Banda Singh Bahadur to fight in the battle of Sirhind. Baba Deep Singh was also a survivor of the Chotta Ghalughara (Small Holocaust) in 1755 when 10,000 Sikhs were killed.
On the outskirts of Amritsar, Baba ji and a group of heavily outnumbered Sikhs fought two fierce battles against a Mughal force of 20,000. In the second engagement Baba Deep Singh in the course of battle was beheaded, but having vowed to die in the precincts of the Golden Temple. He kept his promise by continuing after picking up his head and carrying it on his palm, whilst continuing to fight. He then left for Sach Khand with his severed head resting on the parkarma of Harimander Sahib on 11 November 1757.
Today at the same spot, just south of the norteast corner of the parkarma, a large marble octagonal tile marks the spot where his head landed. Many pilgrims stop and pause here daily, as they have since his death, to sprinkle rose pedals and lay garlands on the tile as they pray in his honor.
Baba Ji was born January 26, 1682, (14 Maagh Sunmat 1739) the son of Bhai Bhagata Ji and Mai Jeoni Ji,) a Sikh couple living in Pahuvind, a village 40 km southwest of Amritsar.] Baba Ji's parents were hard working Sikh farmers. Their first born he was to be their only child. He was named Deepa (light). An only child, his parents lavished him with much devotion and affection. When Deepa was twelve, he traveled with his parents to Anandpur Sahib to meet Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh guru. They stayed in the Guru's city for several days, doing Sewa (service) with the Sikh community. When his parents were ready to return to their village, the Guru asked the 12 year old Deepa to stay with him at Anandpur. He readily accepted his Guru's request and began serving the Sikh community of the city. While at Anandpur Sahib, he immersed himself in his studies of Sikh philosophy and the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book of scriptures. He learned Gurmukhi (Punjabi script) and several other languages from Bhai Mani Singh and other Sikh scholars. It was here that he also learned the art of horsemanship, hunting and the use of the bow and other weapons. At the age of eighteen, he received Amrit from the Panj Pyare at Anandpur Sahib on Vaisakhi day and took an oath to serve as one of Waheguru’s warriors (Akal Purakh dee fauj). With his new name, Deep Singh also learned that Sikhs are to always help the weak and needy, and to fight for truth and justice.After receiving the vows of the Khalsa, he stayed on in Anandpur to continue his studies of the sacred texts under Bhai Mani Singh. He soon became one of the Guru's most beloved Sikhs staying in Anandpur for a total of about eight years. In about 1702 Guru Gobind Singh ji requested that he return to his village to help his parents. He was married that same year. In 1704, about two years after his return to Pahuwind, a Sikh messenger arrived to inform him that Guru Ji had left his fort in Anandpur Sahib after fighting with the Hindu hill Rajput Rajas for six months. He also learned that the Guru's two young sons and his mother, Mata Gujri, had become separated from the Guru during the battle. Upon hearing such disheartening news, Baba Deep Singh Ji immediately left Pahuwind to meet with Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Baba Deep Singh Ji caught up with the Guru at Damdama Sahib in Talwandi. Here, he learned that the two older sons of the Guru, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, had lost their lives in the battle of Chamkaur. Guru Ji also told him that his two younger sons, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh and with grandmother were betrayed by a former family servant and arrested. After refusing to convert to Islam they were cruelly murdered at the orders of Wazir Khan. Having pre-known the fate of younger Sahibzadas, their grandmother Mata Gujar Kaur left for heavenly abode in thanda burj in which she and the two princes were held at Sirhind.
The Missions off Baba Deep Singh Ji & Martyrdom
Baba Deep Singh Ji had been summoned to Damdama Sahib to work with Bhai Mani Singh Ji preparing the final text of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh Ji recited the entire Granth Sahib to them while they wrote out the text. After its completion Baba Deep Singh Ji continued, for several years, to hand write four additional copies of the holy scriptures. These four copies were dispersed, a copy each to: Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, Sri Takhat Patna Sahib, Sri Takhat Hazur Sahib and Sri Takhat Anandpur Sahib. Later the learned scholar inscribed another copy of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Arabic script. It was sent to the Middle East. In 1706, before Guru Gobind Singh Ji traveled to the Deccan with Bahadur Shah, Guru Ji placed Baba Deep Singh in charge of Damdama Sahib. He sent Bhai Mani Singh Ji to head the Sangat at Harimander Sahib in Amritsar. Baba Deep Singh Ji spent many years at Damdama Sahib preaching Sikh values and teachings and doing service for the community. He was always ready to serve those in need and to fight for justice. Baba Ji also continued to write gutkas (books of hymns) distributing them to the Sikh community. In about 1709, Baba Deep Singh Ji joined Banda Singh Bahadur, the Jathedar appointed by the dying Guru Gobind Singh to fight for the freedom of Punjab. They fought together in the battle at Sirhind—the city in which Guru Gobind Singh Ji's younger sons had been killed. Although the Muslim army outnumbered the Sikhs significantly, the Sikh army was able to easily defeat the Muslim forces. During the battle, Wazir Khan was killed closing the chapter of tyranny of this Mughal leader. In 1732, he went to the rescue of Sardar Ala Singh who had been besieged in Barnala by Manjh and Bhatti Rajputs in collaboration with the faujdar of Jalandhar and the nawab of Malerkotla. In 1733, when the Mughal governor of Lahore sought peace with the Sikhs offering them a nawabship and a jagir, Baba Deep Singh and his jatha joined Nawab Kapur Singh at Amritsar to form a joint Sikh force, the Dal Khalsa, which was soon divided for administrative convenience into the Buddha Dal and the Taruna Dal, the latter being further split into five jathas. Deep Singh, now reverently called Baba, was given the command of one of these jathas which in 1748 were redesignated misls. It came to be known as Shahid misl. As the leader of the Shaheedi misl, he achieved numerous victories for the Sikhs. The Shahid misl had its sphere of influence south of the River Sutlej and Baba Deep Singh's headquarters remained at Talvandi Sabo. The tower in which he lived still stands next to the Takht Sri Damdama Sahib and is known as Burj Baba Deep Singh Shahid. At the invitation of Mughlani Begum, Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded India for the fourth time during the years 1755-56. On his return journey Abdali was accompanied by his soldiers who carried enormous stores of gold, silver and other valuables looted from the towns of Mathura, Bindraban, Agra and Delhi. These valuables were loaded on the backs of horses and other animals. In addition thousands of beautiful unmarried girls and married women, from both Hindu and Muslim communities, were being forcibly taken against their wishes, to serve as maidens and slaves of Abdali, and to be auctioned in open market. They were herded together in bullock carts and bound to prevent their escape enroute. When the leaders of the Khalsa Panth (Misaldars) came to know of this caravan passing through the Punjab, they decided to intervene with force, to free these girls and women and save their honour and that of the country. The cries for help of these unfortunate women fell on deaf ears and nobody dared to rescue them till the caravan arrived near Kurukshetra. Baba Deep Singh's Jatha (army) was assigned duty near the river Markanda. When he and his brave companions heard the wailings of the helpless children and women, they stormed out of the surrounding jungles (forests) and pounced upon Abdali's caravan, like lightening bolts from an angry sky. While some of them attacked Abdali's soldiers, others captured and drove away many bullock carts laden with the children, women and looted valuables taking them to the safety of their nearby jungle hideouts. With little thought of their own safety or lives, the Sikhs had rescued about 300 women and young girls as well as 100 boys from the clutches of Abdali. The freed boys, girls and married women both Muslim and Hindu, were escorted safely to their homes by the Sikh soldiers. Men whose moral character was of the highest order even in those difficult days. The Rajput and Maratha Khatris had failed to mount any attempt to rescue the prisoners. But the saints-soldiers of Guru Gobind Singh were made of other stuff. Ahmed Shah himself wondered at the Sikhs' daring, how could their Gurus take sparrows and turn them into Hawks and Eagles, did naming a man a Lion turn him into one. Because of the dare devil tactics and noble acts of the Sikhs, the captured women and children took to singing:
"Moreen Baba Kachh Walea Chhai Naheen Taan Ran gai Basre noon gai"
'O' brave Sikh wearing Kachah (an undergarment), liberate the enslaved Women,
otherwise they would be taken to Basra.
During this invasion of India, Ahmad Shah Durrani annexed Punjab to his Afghan dominions and appointed his son, Taimur Shah, viceroy at Lahore, with the veteran general Jahan Khan as his deputy. Jahan Khan invaded Amritsar in May 1757, razed the Sikh fortress of Ram Rauni and defiled the sacred pool. Although Baba Deep Singh Ji was seventy-five years old, he still had the strength of a young warrior. He gathered a large group of Sikhs and advanced towards Sri Harimander Sahib. By the time they reached the village of Tarn Taran, about ten miles from Amritsar, their numbers had risen to about five thousand. At this time, Baba Ji drew a line on the ground with his khanda, and asked only those who were willing to fight and die to cross the line.
All of the assembled Sikhs crossed the line eagerly. Baba Deep Singh Ji then recited the Shabad:
"Jo to praym khaylan ka chaao, sir dhar talee galee mayree aao."
Those who wish to play the game of love (to follow the Sikh path), come to me
with your head in your palm.
"It maarag pair dhareejai, sir deejai kaan na keejai."
If you wish your feet to travel this path, don't delay in accepting to give your
When news of Baba Deep Singh Ji's intentions reached Jahan Khan, he immediately mobilized an army of 20,000 men and proceeded towards Tarn Taran. Baba Deep Singh Ji's army intercepted Jahan Khan's forces near the village of Goharwal, about five miles from Amritsar. At this point, there was a clash between the opposing forces. Baba Deep Singh Ji fought with his 15kg (about 32 lbs.) khanda (double-edged sword). Each Sikh fought with such great valor and courage that the enemy was almost defeated. During the midst of battle, a large army of reinforcements arrived for Jahan Khan's men, turning the odds against the Sikhs. Yet, the Sikhs with Baba Deep Singh Ji as their head continued fighting and advanced towards Amritsar. During the clash, one of the Mughal commanders, Jamal Khan, attacked Baba Deep Singh Ji. As they fought, both men swung their weapons with great force, leaving both of their heads separated from their bodies. After seeing this scene, a young Sikh warrior called out to Baba Ji, reminding him of his vow to reach Sri Harimander Sahib. Upon hearing this, Baba Deep Singh Ji immediately stood up, holding his severed head upright on his left palm while holding his khanda in his right hand. He then continued fighting and moving towards Sri Harimander Sahib. Upon seeing the sight of Baba Deep Singh's headless body tearing through their numbers, most of the men in the Mughal army fled away in terror. Baba Deep Singh was able to continue fighting and reached the periphery of Sri Harimander Sahib from where he flung his severed head which came to rest at the parkarma (rectangular walkway) of this sacred Gurdwara and lay there as promised. The Sikh Army continued to fight the fleeing Mughals until victory was achieved. Baba ji is remembered by all Sikhs as a brave and courageous martyr with an unflinching dedication to the Sikh principles. Two shrines now commemorate the martyr, one on the circumambulatory terrace of the Sarovar surrounding the Harimander Sahib where he finally fell and the other, Shahidganj Baba Deep Singh Shahid, near Gurdwara Ramsar, where his body was cremated. The places where Baba ji drew the line, engaged in battle, lost his head, threw it, and where it landed are all marked by Gurdwaras in Punjab. Baba Deep Singh Ji's actions encouraged the Sikhs to continue to fight against the tyrannical and oppressive Mughal Empire for many years. Even today, his life serves as an example for all Sikhs on how to live and die with dignity.