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The Battle of Chamkaur Sahib - Where mortals became legends
Nirmolika Sangha | Sunday, 8 January 2017 AT 01:57 PM IST
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‘Waheguru ji da Khalsa, Waheguru ji di fateh’. This phrase is synonymous with Sikhism today, but its origin dates back to 1699. These words, which became the rallying cry of the Khalsa, were uttered by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and the last human Guru of the Sikhs. The country celebrated his 350th birth anniversary this week, and gurudwaras across the country were decked up for the occasion, notably Patna, where he was born. Guru Gobind Singh shaped much of Sikhism as we know it today. He established the ‘Khalsa’ (the Pure ones), the warrior saints, gave the name Singh (lion) to men and Kaur (princess) to women and also gave the five Ks, which are followed by every devout Sikh today. It was he, who decided there would be no more Gurus after him and appointed the Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru.

Guru Gobind Singh was not just a saint, but also a fierce warrior. He was highly educated, a poet, a philosopher and also a skilled swordsman and rider. While history is replete with instances of the battles he fought, and the bravery shown by him and the Khalsas he led, there is one that stands out. The Battle of Chamkaur Sahib, which was fought in 1705, between the Sikhs and the Mughals. This battle warrants special mention because of the odds stacked against the Sikhs. The Khalsa army, led by Guru Gobind Singh, was outnumbered 40 to 10,00,000. These outrageously impossible odds are a testament to the sheer bravery displayed by the Khalsa forces and the man who led them. 

Chamkaur Sahib is a place on the banks of the Sirsa river in Rupnagar district of Punjab. Guru Gobind Singh had reached the town with his followers after leaving Anandpur Sahib, where they had fought two battles against the Mughal forces. He had managed to evacuate his followers from the city, after the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb sent him a signed letter, promising him and his followers safe passage out of Anandpur Sahib. Alas, the Mughals betrayed the Sikhs and attacked their procession. After fighting them off, they reached the Sirsa river and crossed it, reaching Chamkaur Sahib, where Guru Gobind Singh decided to face the enemy.

Heavily outnumbered, the Sikh army fought on, never letting the Mughal forces take control of the fortress, which they had occupied, and Mughals realised that they had underestimated the Sikhs. When the Sikhs ran out of ammunition, a group of five went on to the battlefield and engaged in hand to hand combat. When these five died, Guru Gobind sent another five and so on. The small groups of warriors were successful in inflicting heavy casualties on the Mughals, so skilled were they as warriors. The Guru’s two elder sons, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, were martyred in the battle too.

When their numbers dwindled and Guru Gobind realised that death was imminent, he asked his remaining followers to get ready to fight to death. They, however, requested their Guru to escape from the fortress, as his survival was necessary for the survival of the Khalsa. He refused to show his back to the battlefield, but was eventually persuaded by his followers to leave, while they would stay back and fight till the last man. He escaped at night, with some of his followers. The Mughals attacked the fortress the next morning, believing the Guru to be inside and killed the remaining Sikhs.

And so, while the small army of Sikhs was wiped out in the battle, the Mughals were the ones who truly lost the battle. They were held off by an army much smaller than theirs for a full day, and in the end, they weren’t able to fulfil their goal of killing Guru Gobind Singh and his legacy. This battle goes on to reinforce the fierceness and the bravery of the Sikhs and their Guru, the man who led them. When the odds were very unfavourable stacked against them, it was the indomitable spirit of the Khalsas that kept them going on.

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