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Baba Deep Singh Ji, Golden Temple, and COVID-19

Sikh History reveres the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji who fought to avenge the desecration of Golden Temple, Amritsar, in 1757. Legend says he fought while supporting his severed head and refused to die until he reached Golden Temple.

Ishmeet Nagpal 22 Mar 2020

Baba deep singh ji

As a Sikh, going to Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Saheb, is a pilgrimage most of us make at least once or twice in our lives, if not yearly. With the COVID-19 prevention measures being taken-be it the sanitization of the pathways and the shrine itself, or the group of doctors stationed for screening the devotees for symptoms, or making announcements to direct people to maintain distance from one another- there is no directive to completely shut down entry. COVID-19 is still being studied and we have yet to gain complete understanding of community spread, hence scaling down operations should now progress to only essential functioning and closing entry for devotees. The Gurbani has been telecasted live from the Golden Temple for many years now, and maybe that would have to suffice for now, rather than allowing devotees inside. Closing down places of worship that attract large crowds is a necessary measure we need to take in these trying times. Once life goes back to normal, though we do not know when that will be, we know that we can seamlessly rebuild the community centred around shrines like Golden Temple which has been a symbol of resilience throughout history. Many of us remember the re-construction and restoration of the holy shrine after Operation Blue Star in 1984. Yet, this was not the first time the temple had been damaged and rebuilt.

The original Sarovar (holy pool of water) was constructed by the fourth Sikh Guru- Guru Ram Das Ji- and the temple itself was then planned to be built around this Sarovar by the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji enlisted Mian Mir who was a Sufi saint and spiritual advisor to Dara Shikoh, to lay the foundation of Harmandir Saheb in in 1589.

In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev Ji placed the compiled religious text of Sikhs, the Guru Granth Saheb, at Harmandir Saheb. He established Harmandir Saheb as the shrine of AthSath Tirath, saying that one dip in the holy Sarovar here would be equal to going on 68 pilgrimages.

Peace was short-lived, as invaders all over the world had started annexing more and more territories in a bloodthirsty bid for power. In 1755, Ahmad Shah Abdali launched his armies towards the cities in and around Delhi, accumulating a vast haul of precious jewels and artefacts, in addition to abducting a great number of women and girls intended to be held as slaves. When the Sikhs learned that this army was to pass through Punjab on their way back to Afghanistan, they hatched a plan to free the kidnapped girls.

Baba Deep Singh Ji had become one of the most revered Sikhs at this time, due to his considerable scholarly talent in addition to his athleticism and bravery. He had been the lead Sikh scholar to transcribe and write down the entire Guru Granth Saheb as dictated by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- and even made copies of the extensive text in his own handwriting. He had fought in numerous battles alongside the tenth Guru and even at the age of 73, he was a formidable fighter. He led the Sikh army that attacked Ahmad Shah Abdali’s troops in 1755-56 and successfully freed the prisoners and recovered the looted goods.

The defeated Abdali escaped to Lahore and vowed revenge against the Sikhs. He ordered his general- Jahan Khan- to destroy the Golden Temple, which he successfully accomplished in 1757. To add to the destruction, the holy Sarovar was also desecrated by filling it up with animal carcasses. As soon as Baba Deep Singh Ji heard the news of this horrific event, he vowed to fight back and not return until he had defeated his enemies and paid obeisance at the Sarovar.

As he started rallying the support of Sikh soldiers on his way to the Golden Temple, more and more people joined in swelling their numbers from a few hundreds to five thousand by the time they reached Tarn Taran 10 miles away from Amritsar. At this juncture, Baba Deep Singh Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda (double sided sword) and said, “Only those who are willing to fight and die, should cross this line.” All Sikhs present crossed the line immediately.

At the other end of the city, Jahan Khan learned that Sikhs were mobilising their forces, so he dispatched an army of 20,000 troops to intercept them on their way to the Golden Temple. During the clash, Baba Deep Singh Ji was attacked by commander Jamal Khan and it is said that both swung their swords at the same time severing each other’s head.

One version of the legend says that Baba Deep Singh Ji’s head was completely severed and he carried it in his left hand and continued fighting until he fulfilled his vow to reach Golden Temple. It is said that the armies cleared the way in awe when they saw Baba Deep Singh Ji riding towards Golden Temple with his own head in his hand.

Another version of the legend says that his head was partially severed but by sheer force of will he supported his head against his neck and continued to fight with one hand until he reached the Sarovar and finally laid his head down.

The Sikh armies, fuelled by inspiration from Baba Deep Singh Ji, successfully pushed back forcing the Afghan forces to retreat. Reconstruction and rebuilding of Golden Temple took many years as there were further skirmishes in the years to come.

 

(Painting depicting Baba Deep Singh Ji fighting with his severed head in his left hand, installed at the shrine dedicated to him at Golden Temple)

Baba Deep Singh Ji truly earned the title of Shaheed (Martyr) and inspires all Sikhs to never give up fighting for what is right. The Golden Temple has such spiritual significance for Sikhs not just because of the holy Sarovar and the site where the original Guru Granth Saheb was installed, but also because of the stories of dedication and sacrifice that surround our tumultuous history of defending our faith. Hence the closure of such a holy place may seem emotionally and logistically daunting, but it needs to be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As I sit in Mumbai on Day 13 of self-isolation, I think about the day I will visit the Golden Temple again, and that day, even if it is months or years from now, I will remember to pay obeisance at the shrine paying homage to Baba Deep Singh Ji. I will recall his courage, as I do now, and know that this is where Sikhs get their resilience from. We fight, we build, and we re-build, and just like Baba Deep Singh Ji, we never give up.

 

Related Articles:

  1. 'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020
  2. Draped in yellow, Malerkotla rises against the CAA-NPR-NRC
  3. Sikh-Muslim friendships started with Guru Nanak Dev Ji

 

Baba Deep Singh Ji, Golden Temple, and COVID-19

Sikh History reveres the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji who fought to avenge the desecration of Golden Temple, Amritsar, in 1757. Legend says he fought while supporting his severed head and refused to die until he reached Golden Temple.

Baba deep singh ji

As a Sikh, going to Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Saheb, is a pilgrimage most of us make at least once or twice in our lives, if not yearly. With the COVID-19 prevention measures being taken-be it the sanitization of the pathways and the shrine itself, or the group of doctors stationed for screening the devotees for symptoms, or making announcements to direct people to maintain distance from one another- there is no directive to completely shut down entry. COVID-19 is still being studied and we have yet to gain complete understanding of community spread, hence scaling down operations should now progress to only essential functioning and closing entry for devotees. The Gurbani has been telecasted live from the Golden Temple for many years now, and maybe that would have to suffice for now, rather than allowing devotees inside. Closing down places of worship that attract large crowds is a necessary measure we need to take in these trying times. Once life goes back to normal, though we do not know when that will be, we know that we can seamlessly rebuild the community centred around shrines like Golden Temple which has been a symbol of resilience throughout history. Many of us remember the re-construction and restoration of the holy shrine after Operation Blue Star in 1984. Yet, this was not the first time the temple had been damaged and rebuilt.

The original Sarovar (holy pool of water) was constructed by the fourth Sikh Guru- Guru Ram Das Ji- and the temple itself was then planned to be built around this Sarovar by the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji enlisted Mian Mir who was a Sufi saint and spiritual advisor to Dara Shikoh, to lay the foundation of Harmandir Saheb in in 1589.

In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev Ji placed the compiled religious text of Sikhs, the Guru Granth Saheb, at Harmandir Saheb. He established Harmandir Saheb as the shrine of AthSath Tirath, saying that one dip in the holy Sarovar here would be equal to going on 68 pilgrimages.

Peace was short-lived, as invaders all over the world had started annexing more and more territories in a bloodthirsty bid for power. In 1755, Ahmad Shah Abdali launched his armies towards the cities in and around Delhi, accumulating a vast haul of precious jewels and artefacts, in addition to abducting a great number of women and girls intended to be held as slaves. When the Sikhs learned that this army was to pass through Punjab on their way back to Afghanistan, they hatched a plan to free the kidnapped girls.

Baba Deep Singh Ji had become one of the most revered Sikhs at this time, due to his considerable scholarly talent in addition to his athleticism and bravery. He had been the lead Sikh scholar to transcribe and write down the entire Guru Granth Saheb as dictated by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- and even made copies of the extensive text in his own handwriting. He had fought in numerous battles alongside the tenth Guru and even at the age of 73, he was a formidable fighter. He led the Sikh army that attacked Ahmad Shah Abdali’s troops in 1755-56 and successfully freed the prisoners and recovered the looted goods.

The defeated Abdali escaped to Lahore and vowed revenge against the Sikhs. He ordered his general- Jahan Khan- to destroy the Golden Temple, which he successfully accomplished in 1757. To add to the destruction, the holy Sarovar was also desecrated by filling it up with animal carcasses. As soon as Baba Deep Singh Ji heard the news of this horrific event, he vowed to fight back and not return until he had defeated his enemies and paid obeisance at the Sarovar.

As he started rallying the support of Sikh soldiers on his way to the Golden Temple, more and more people joined in swelling their numbers from a few hundreds to five thousand by the time they reached Tarn Taran 10 miles away from Amritsar. At this juncture, Baba Deep Singh Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda (double sided sword) and said, “Only those who are willing to fight and die, should cross this line.” All Sikhs present crossed the line immediately.

At the other end of the city, Jahan Khan learned that Sikhs were mobilising their forces, so he dispatched an army of 20,000 troops to intercept them on their way to the Golden Temple. During the clash, Baba Deep Singh Ji was attacked by commander Jamal Khan and it is said that both swung their swords at the same time severing each other’s head.

One version of the legend says that Baba Deep Singh Ji’s head was completely severed and he carried it in his left hand and continued fighting until he fulfilled his vow to reach Golden Temple. It is said that the armies cleared the way in awe when they saw Baba Deep Singh Ji riding towards Golden Temple with his own head in his hand.

Another version of the legend says that his head was partially severed but by sheer force of will he supported his head against his neck and continued to fight with one hand until he reached the Sarovar and finally laid his head down.

The Sikh armies, fuelled by inspiration from Baba Deep Singh Ji, successfully pushed back forcing the Afghan forces to retreat. Reconstruction and rebuilding of Golden Temple took many years as there were further skirmishes in the years to come.

 

(Painting depicting Baba Deep Singh Ji fighting with his severed head in his left hand, installed at the shrine dedicated to him at Golden Temple)

Baba Deep Singh Ji truly earned the title of Shaheed (Martyr) and inspires all Sikhs to never give up fighting for what is right. The Golden Temple has such spiritual significance for Sikhs not just because of the holy Sarovar and the site where the original Guru Granth Saheb was installed, but also because of the stories of dedication and sacrifice that surround our tumultuous history of defending our faith. Hence the closure of such a holy place may seem emotionally and logistically daunting, but it needs to be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As I sit in Mumbai on Day 13 of self-isolation, I think about the day I will visit the Golden Temple again, and that day, even if it is months or years from now, I will remember to pay obeisance at the shrine paying homage to Baba Deep Singh Ji. I will recall his courage, as I do now, and know that this is where Sikhs get their resilience from. We fight, we build, and we re-build, and just like Baba Deep Singh Ji, we never give up.

 

Related Articles:

  1. 'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020
  2. Draped in yellow, Malerkotla rises against the CAA-NPR-NRC
  3. Sikh-Muslim friendships started with Guru Nanak Dev Ji

 

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