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  1. 'With one sword we will take authority as 'miran ki miri' (king of kings). With the other, we shall achieve 'piran ki piri' (spiritual supremacy). All those who come our way seeking refuge shall be saved. Those who oppose us shall lose both authorities.' -Sahib Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. (1) In 1606 A.D., the Mughal emperor Jahangir ordered the execution of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji in order to appease the radical Sunni orthodoxy at his court. In turn he earned the wrath of a fledgling Sikh nation which found a rejuvenation in the form of the executed Guru's successor, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. Upon receiving news of his father's last moments, the young Guru ordered his apostles to construct a stone plinth neighboring Harmandir Sahib and prepare it for his coronation. In this task, his apostles were assisted by the duly revered Baba Budha Ji and the Guru's amanuensis pedagogue, Bhai Gurdass Ji. When the day, of his coronation, dawned the Guru marched towards this plinth and seated himself atop it in a Bir-Assan or archer's position. Whereas prior Gurus had often adorned an ascetic apparel on their coronation, he anomalously wore a royal attire with an imperial plum attached to his turban. Baba Budha Ji eventually arrived bearing two swords which he reverentially placed around the young Guru's neck. The latter then stood and in a thundering voice outlined his vision to arm the Sikhs, preserve the poor and sanctify both spirituality and militarism. The stone plinth, atop which he stood, subsequently became loaded with a potent symbolism as the Akal-Bunga, or seat of Akal, from which the Sikhs would commence their new crusade. (2) The sixteen year old Guru's poignant actions hallmarked a new era for the aboriginals of the sub-continent. His defiance, in the aftermath of Maharana Pratap's sporadic mutinies, heralded a turning point in the ubiquitous ethos of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the destiny of the nation-less Sikhs. Ordered, by their Guru, to discard any fear of death and pain the actions of his Sikhs soon brought, 'assistance to the neighboring Hindus and their Dharma. Those who had once shivered before the Turks, and constantly drowned in a tide of depression and fear; and accepted the faith of the Turks in lieu of their own (i.e. radical Muslims) now hoped that they might escape their miserable lot.' (3) Pledging to birth a dynamic army, the Guru now turned to Baba Budha Ji for assistance. The latter had been the first to learn the martial sciences, crafted by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and the young Guru's initial instructor in the conduct of warfare. 'The fifth Guru (Guru Arjan Dev Ji) himself a descendant of valorous warriors had many Kshatri-Rajput disciples* and solicited Baba Budha Ji to tutor his son in the martial "vidya" which Guru Nanak Dev Ji had bestowed upon him. The Baba agreed and found the boy to be an apt pupil. Forever grateful to his teacher and reverential of him, he enjoyed gaining the priceless knowledge.' (4) Vigorously entrenched in Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji's psyche was the prophecy uttered by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, which had warned the initial Islamic dynasty, of the sub-continent, the Mughals to desist from tyranny or otherwise face the wrath of his Sikhs. To quicken the realization of his primary predecessor's words, the Guru commenced fathering an army of valorous warriors, the Nihungs. These men were specially handpicked by him and instructed in grappling and armed combat. At least 300 formed his own Praetorian guard in the style of Mughal imperials. (5) Mufti Ali ud' Din notes, 'the reason as to why the name of this group is "Akali" (Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji's soldiers) is that, adjacent to the building associated with Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan is "Akal Bunga", "The locus of Khuda" (i.e., the Almighty), which is associated with Guru Hargobind. The 'Akalis', or 'Khuda's men', as a mark of honour, are associated with this "Bunga" (fortress). The dress of this group was endorsed to be black in observance of mourning to mark Guru Arjan Dev's bereavement. Subsequently, this roaming community took on weapons of steel and demonstrated fearlessness at the time of a mighty assault.' (6) Additionally the Guru divided his forces into a four battalion structure and engineered an efficient chain of command. Each battalion was commanded by an able commander (brigadier) who in turn directly reported to the Guru himself. (7) Whereas the Guru ubiquitously was responsible for his forces as Commander-In-Chief, his four generals were tasked with the daily upkeep of their respective men and training. Amarinder Singh substantiates that the Guru's forces fundamentally consisted of cavalry and infantry, if any, was never used. (8) History vindicates the fact that Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji's meager autochthon force defeated the superior Mughal forces in four consecutive battles. This was incredibly a first time event for the Mughals, who in their five century domination had never faced such vulnerability. The success of the Guru partially owed to his unique stratagems and also to the decisive training of his men. His third battle, at Ruhela Ghat, in 1628 A.D. endorses this actuality. The Mughal C-in-C Abdullah Khan, summoned a counterpart, Berman Khan to punish the supposedly inferior kafir (infidel). The latter met a Sikh, Mathura, in battle who,'pounced forward with sudden speed. Anticipating where Khan was applying his strength (to the blow) he embraced him between both arms. Khan desired to escape but Mathura did not let him. With the strength of his arms, he grappled Berman Khan to the ground. Snatching the sword off him, he then decapitated the Khan, and threw the head afar from his body. Seeing the skill of Mathura, the Guru's army was greatly pleased. The Khan's army was greatly dismayed on seeing their leader dead. Then masses of vengeful Mughals fell upon the Akali warrior Mathura, showering him with spears, sword blows and arrows. Being cut to pieces he himself died killing many enemies.' (9) Kavi Santokh Singh narrates that the Guru's army also hosted several esteemed Muslim warriors, such as the famed Paindeh Khan. In 1634 A.D. Khan confronted the belligerent Didar Ali. Both men warily circled each other until Khan killed Ali's steed. Subsequently, 'the Sayyid (Ali) struck a blow which was blocked by Paindeh Khan on his shield. Then pouncing forward, Khan unleashed a volatile punch to the base of his foe's ear. Without a gasp the Sayyid fell. Dead as if a tree in the wind.' (10) In the same battle the Guru exhibited his own vigorous prowess. Challenged by the Commander Muklis Khan, the Guru ordered his men to disengage from the foe and witness the spectacle which was about to play out. Encircling each other like lions, both warriors emptied their quivers but to Khan's consternation the Guru stood unaffected. Then, after dismounting from his steed, Muklis Khan challenged the Guru to a one-on-one duel. The Guru readily complied and exhorted his foe to, 'display his martial skill with confidence, and thus gain praise as he fought with pride. The warriors of both armies were watching him.' (11) Santokh Singh exhibits the subsequent happenings in terse terms, and with a nimble twist of his quill, 'having patiently digested the words of the Guru, Mukhilis Khan focuses his eyes in his desire to strike. The Guru becomes alert, and moves like a nimble-footed leopard, leaving no opening for his opponent. The Guru is alert and moving all around. Sword in hand, like a hunter, he stalks. Both wait for an opening but each moves with such agility; planning ahead as a master 'shatranj' (Indian chess) player, all potential attacks are thwarted before they could be launched by correct tactical positioning. Mukhilis Khan suddenly advances with his sword raised high. Feigning an attack to the upper body, he deliveres a low blow at once, but the Guru leaps out of harm's way. With his confidence boosted, the Khan strikes a second blow at Guru's body. This blow the Guru catches with a swift deflecting movement of his shield. Thus, drawing the Khan into killing range, the Guru tightens his sword-hand grip as he strikes a deadly back-handed blow below the Khan's raised sword arm; cutting across his midsection, he slices his torso in half. The ribs are cut, and the body falls in two. The head and arms lay on one side, the legs and feet on the other. The Guru's heavily curved Persian 'shamshir' (sword) cuts like wire cuts through soap.' (12) On each occasion, the Guru was forced to fight; his foes, 'fled in defeat as the braves of the Guru shouting "Akal Akal" pounced upon them.' (13) Despite possessing such an innovative force, the Guru desisted from focusing on any personal gains. He imbued the ideologue with which he had ascended the Akal-Bunga on his coronation. His mission, Per se, was to subdue the plagues inflicting his apostles and pave the ground way for any future campaigns. On one occasion Bhai Gurdas asked him whether the Nihungs were needed in the aftermath of his battles. The Guru is said to have retorted, 'Bhai Gurdas if the gardener wishes to preserve his orchard he should ring it with briary saplings. I, as the gardener of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, am only emulating what other gardeners do.' (14) His grandson, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, would later emulate his resolute stratagems and further expand his mission to transform the Sikhs into self-sufficient nation. Plausibly Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji's Art of War can be summarized via the following aphorism, 'nations possess armies. But only a few armies possess their own nations.' An able commander, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was the first Sikh Warrior Guru and a subtle pivot on the contemporaneous sub-continental chess board. Modern Sikhs would do well to adopt his ideologue: 'The Science of War and Weapons we train in everyday, we train in so in times of need it comes to our aid.' -Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji to Baba Bidhi Chand Ji. (15) Sources: (1) Kavi Santokh Singh, Suraj Prakash Granth, 7:2408. (2) Singh H (1992-1998); Encyclopedia of Sikhism, 4 vols. Punjab University, Patiala. Referenced under 'Akal-Takhat.' (3) Giani Gian Singh, Twarikh Guru Khalsa, first edition, 1:216. (4) Gurbilas Patshahi 6, (1720), eds. Singh J; Dr. Singh A, Bhasha Vibhag Publishers (1998) Punjab, pg. 54-55. * In the discussed era only the Kshatri caste, whose nobility was exemplified by the Rajput sub-clan, was allowed, as per the Vedas, to wield weaponry. (5) Darshi A.R. (1999) The Gallant Defender, B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh Publishers, Amritsar, Punjab, India. pg. 7. (6) Mufti' Ali ud-Din, Ibratnamah (1854) ed. Muhammad Baqir, 2 vols. Lahore, Pakistan (1961) 1:364-366. (7) Accessed from http://NihangSingh.org. (8) Singh A; (2010) The Last Sunset, The Lotus Collection, an imprint of Roli Books, pg. 28. (9) Kavi Santokh Singh, Suraj Prakash Granth, 8:2930-2932. (10) Ibid, 8:2851-2852. (11) Ibid, 8:2851-2852. (12) Ibid, 8:2852-2853. (13) Giani Gian Singh, Twarikh Guru Khalsa, 1:488. (14) Accessed from http://shop.gt1588.com/collections/prints?page=2 (15) Kavi Santokh Singh, Suraj Prakash Granth, 8:2957. http://tisarpanth.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/the-armed-sage.html?view=magazine
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