Baba Gurbaksh Singh
Sikh history has been enriched by enormous martyrdoms of Sikh fighters and Sikh Saints. Sikh gurus themselves lead the Sikhs with glorious examples of martyrdom. First Guru to be martyred by Mughals was Guru Arjan Sahib ji, the fifth Guru. Guru Arjan Sahib ji who had compiled Guru Granth Sahib (called it Adi Granth then) by collecting hymns of all the Sikh Gurus before him. It is probably only in Sikhism that its founders and its teachers were not only great fighers and saints but also great writers and poets.
Hymns written by Guru Nanak dev ji, Guru Angad Sahib ji, Guru Ramdas ji, Guru Arjan Sahib ji, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, Guru Gobind Singh ji easily surpass the criteria of current noble prize for literature, then their examples of supreme sacrifices after achieving so much fame, etc is incredible. But then only Gurus are perfect, we Sikhs (sikh means disciple) surpass either in literature, or as fighters, sportsmen, or as martyrs, but not always in everything as with Gurus. As you know in this site you are only reading about "Great Sikh Warriors", about Sikhs who fought to survive for their freedom of religion. There are many Sikhs who have achieved much in other fields but that was only possible once Great Sikh Warriors stopped the religious persecution. Just imagine what Punjab would you have been living in today if not for Great Sikh Warriors?.
Baba Deep Singh ji Shaheed martyrdom in 1757 at Amritsar was not the last one, in fact it inspired thousands more. In 1757, Baba Deep Singh ji took a vow to celebrate festival of Diwali at Amritsar which was in control of Afghani Durrani (abdali) forces and started his march along with about 500 or so disciples and fulfilled his vow by breathing last at Parikarma periphery of Golden Temple. His martyrdom inspired countless others, one of them was Bhai Gurbax Singh.
Baba Gurbaksh Singh Ji was a very well known and respected Singh, who had the honour of being martyred while defending Sri Darbaar Sahib.
Baba Ji was of village Leel near Sri Amritsar. His Father was Bhai Dasaundha Singh Ji and mother Mata Lachmee Kaur Ji. Baba Ji's parents served Satguru Gobind Singh Ji and Baba Ji received amrit at the age of 11, due to the inspiration of Bhai Mani Singh Ji. He spent time with Baba Deep Singh Ji and Bhai Mani Singh Ji and became a very good scholar and warrior.
About Baba Ji
Baba Gurbaksh Singh was always dressed in blue baanaa and kept a very strong rehit. He would awake at amrit vela and do ishnaan. Then, while reciting baaNee, Baba Ji would tie his dumalla. Baba Ji loved Sarbloh. He would offer his respect to his sarbloh shastars i.e. kirpans, chakars, toraas (metal cable tied around dastaar), karas, etc and then put them on. He would finally put on a mala of sarbloh around his neck and also many sarbloh kaRas and simarnaas. Baba Ji's dastaar had many sarbloh toRaas tied into it. He would also wear a sarbloh armour.
Other features Panth Parkash mentions about the way Baba Ji looked was that he wore a very long 1.5 yard kacherra and always kept a long stick with him.
Every amrit vela then, after dressing himself in his baaNaa, Baba Ji sat in the divaan at Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. It did not matter who came to meet him, whether a powerful Sardar or a lowly peasant, he greeted all people in the same way and with the same respect. He had absolutely no worldly aspirations or greed.
Whenever there was a battle, Baba Ji would always go and confront the enemy. He would take the Nishaan Sahib himself and advance. With the beat of the nagara, Baba Ji used to be in the forefront to confront the enemy.
Abdali's Oppression and the Khalsa Scatters
In November 1764, Ahmad Shah Abdali at the head of 30,000 afghanis invaded India for 7th time, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh happened to be stationed at holy Shrine at Amritsar.
The Khalsa had scattered when Ahmed Shah Abdali brought his army through the Punjab. Some Singhs went to the mountains where they were looted by the mountain-people; others went and hid around the rivers where they were not only looted but also attacked by lions and other animals. Those Singhs who decided to stay in Majha and not retreat were turned over to the Afghans by traitors and informers. In Malwa, the Singhs also fared no better and had to go from house to house like beggars.
At Sri Amritsar, the Sarbat Khalsa gathered one day and after the night divaan, decided to abandon Sri Amritsar and leave together as a group for Malwa.
Baba Ji Offers His Shaheedi
After the decision had been made, Baba Gurbaksh Singh rose and addressed the Singhs. Baba Ji said, "Is there any Singh in the Panth today, who would fight with the Afghans and sacrifice his head and then go to Dargah and with his sacrifice have Karta-Purakh listen to his request and ensure the Chardi Kala of the Panth? One who could do ardaas to Karta-Purakh and bring an end to these dark days? Is there any Singh who is so determined and is such a devotee of naam and one who is so strong in rehit? Is there anyone who will give his life for the rest of the Khalsa and with his sacrifice be able to wipe out the enemy?" [It is said that when the enemy kills a bhagat of Vahiguru, the bad karma of committing such an act results in the enemy also being wiped out. Baba Ji was asking if there was such a bhagat in the Panth who could give such a sacrifice and destroy the Afghans].
The Singhs listened to Baba Gurbaksh Singh and replied, "Baba Ji, is there any Singh better for this than you? There is no one with more kamaiee. No one else has the power to abandon their body and go to Dargah like you do. No one else's request will be more acceptable to Vahiguru than yours."
Baba Ji listened to these words and then bowed his head and agreed to the request.
Baba Ji Prepares His Wedding Party
Baba Ji then called out, "I want to be Shaheed! If there is any other Gurmukh who wishes to come with me to Dargah, then let them also come. When there is a marriage, the groom goes with his Sarbaalha (best man) and with a large baraat (marriage party). I am going to marry the bride of Death. Are there Singhs who would be my Sarbaalhas?"
Hearing Baba Ji's call, many Singhs rose and stood with Baba Ji. They said, "We were waiting for your call. With your permission we will be your Sarbaalhas."
Seeing these Singhs stand, many more Singh's also rose and said "then we all will come with you in the baraat!"
Baba Ji then adressed all the Singhs and said, "Khalsa Ji! You have all agreed to join my wedding party. We will give our heads in this Dharam Yudh and in this way we will be married. We will get Shaheedi and Guru Sahib will give us all Kingships. No, even bigger rewards than kingships. That Singh who gives his head in battle will be the King of Kings. "
The Singh's Prepare for The "Wedding"
By this time, Ahmed Shah Abdali had arrived in Lahore. He was preparing to go to Delhi when he heard about the gathering of the Khalsa at Sri Amritsar. He decided that on the way to Delhi, he would stop at Sri Amritsar and slaughter all the Sikhs.
Hearing of the advance of Abdali, some of the cowards who had remained at Sri Amritsar with Baba Ji ran away. Baba Ji also encouraged them to leave and said "Go! Leave now, otherwise we won't let you leave later!"
Only about 30 Singhs now remained. The remaining Singhs were all chardi kala naam abhyaasee Gursikhs. They prepared for their death like a groom prepares for his wedding. They all had new cholas sewn. Some decided to sew blue, and others wore white and others keSri. They gathered in front of Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib and eagerly awaited the enemy. They would stand on their toes to see if the enemy was yet visible on the horizon. They were discussing how they would give their Shaheedis and then in Dargah would stop the Afghan attacks forever.
The following day, the Singhs all rose at amrit vela. They began to prepare like it was their wedding day. They sprinkled themselves with attar and rose scents, and rubbed sandal past on their bodies. As they did this, they sang "GhoReeaa(n)" shabads from Sri Guru Granth Sahib. They then bathed in Sri Amritsar Sahib and then gathered at Sri Akaal Takhat.
Baba Ji was looking very impressive in his new dress. He was wearing a blue chola over his new kacherra and was wearing a very tight dumalla, which was tied especially for battle. The dumalla had many chakars and kirpaans tied into it. The Singhs then gathered and offered obeisance to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. After reading 5 pauRees of Anand Sahib and doing ardaas, the Singhs distributed Degh and then as a group left for darshan of Sri Darbaar Sahib.
The group of Singhs was led by a Nishaan Sahib and nagaaras were beating. Baba Ji asked the Singhs to sing shabads of happiness as this was their wedding day and the wedding party was now moving. Baba Ji and the other Singhs also gave away all the money they had to the needy. They arrived at Sri Darbaar Sahib and did parkarma. Once inside, they showered Sri Guru Granth Sahib with flowers and then did Ardaas. Baba Ji standing before Satguru Granth Sahib spoke the following words, "True Emperor, protector of the poor! Your Khalsa is going now to marry the bride of Death. We are going to battle the Dushts. Satguru Ji! May our Sikhee and our kesh stay intact through our final breaths."
The Afghans in the meantime had began to move towards Sri Amritsar. They had prepared for a massive battle and brought a large army. They were wearing armour and metal helmets. They had decided to do battle in such a way that the Singhs would be killed but they themselves would incur minimal casualties. They had brought long weapons which could kill from a distance such as large guns.
Baba Ji, after offering ardaas at Sri Darbaar Sahib, returned with the Singhs to Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib to listen to keertan and await the enemy. The keertanees began to recite keertan and the Singhs would ask that certain shabads they wanted to hear be sung. The GhoReeaa(n) shabads were again recited. In this way, the entire night passed in listening to keertan. At day break, the enemy had arrived.
The Afghans Arrive & The Battle Begins
The Durrani (abdali) advanced up to Amritsar virtually unopposed and entered the partially reconstructed Harmandir, which he had demolished two years earlier. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh who had already evacuated from the precints women, children, and the aged, had with him only thirty men. According to Ratan Singh Bhangu, prachin Panth Prakash "Bhai Gurbaksh Singh with garlands around his neck and sword on his shoulder, dressed himself as a bridegroom, his men forming the marriage party, waiting eagerly to court the bride-death." As soon as they saw the Afghan king and his hordes, they swooped down upon them.
The Singhs upon seeing the Afghan army came down from Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. They bowed to their shastars (kirpans, katars and talwars) and then grabbed them. Some Singhs grabbed very big sticks and others mounted horses. The Singhs vied to go ahead of each other and kept moving forward. They Singhs argued about who had the right to attain Shaheedi first. The Nishaan Sahibs were furling and the beat of nagaaraas was echoing. The Singhs were like grooms anxious to marry a beautiful wife and seeing the time come closer, becoming more and more excited.
Some Singhs then ran forward and began the battle. The Singhs would sprint forward and began to embrace Shaheedi and complete their weddings with death. The Singhs were surrounded on all four sides and the Afghans began to close in. Baba Ji called out to all the Singhs, "Singhs! Step forward and embrace martyrdom! If we step forward, our honour remains intact, if we step back, they will say we are retreating! Do not look for assistance anymore, just go forward! Now go forward and give your heads!"
Hearing Baba Ji's cry, the Singhs all charged forward. They fell upon the Afghans like a lion on deer. The Singhs were all eager to become Shaheed as quickly as possible. They had no hope for life.
Baba Ji again called out, "Khalsa Ji! Become Shaheed and cross this world-ocean! Let us go to the court of Satguru Ji and ask that the Afghans never attack here again and that the Khalsa should rule! What is the delay now? Fall upon the enemy!"
The Afghans Fall Back & Reinforcements
Wherever the Singhs stood their ground against the Afghans, they eventually fell. Afghan reinforcements also arrived. Not one Singh stepped back. Some Afghans even began to run away. Seeing this, Baba Ji bellowed, "Don't let them go Khalsa Ji! Stand and fight this Dharam Yudh!"
The Afghans did not understand what Baba Ji was saying and were surprised to the see the Singhs run after them. They then trained their guns upon the Singhs. Many Singhs standing with Baba Ji fell to the rain of bullets. Baba Ji then took out his heavy Tegha and ran towards the enemy. He swung his Tegha with such force that it cut through the armour of the Afghans. Baba Ji would aim for the face and neck where there was less armour. The Afghans all then began to cover their faces with their shields.
The Singhs seeing the cowardice of the Afghans threw aside their own shields and challenged, "look! We've thrown aside our shields, do you have the bravery to do the same? We'll take your blows without any shield, will you take ours?"
The Singhs continued to run forward and did not show any fear of death. They did not so much as look backwards. The Afghans continued to fall back and began to wonder why such a small group was not finishing and whether these few Singhs would cause their defeat. They could not bear the brunt of the Singhs' sword blows. They fell back and began to fire bullets and arrows.
Baba Ji's Shaheedi
Baba Ji's body was pierced by many bullets and arrows and his wounds could not be counted. Some cut through his skin and others broke bones. But neither did the Singhs accept defeat nor would they acknowledge any pain. Baba Ji's body was pouring blood like a spring. But Baba Ji kept moving forward. He was soaked in blood like he had just been playing Holi with colours. Eventually because of loss of blood, Baba Ji became very weak. He could not walk anymore and became very tired. But with every ounce of strength in his being, he put on foot ahead of the other.
Baba Ji called to the remaining Singhs, "Singhs! Do not shame the BaaNaa we wear! May our Shaheedis be perfect and may we fall in the battlefield!"
By this time, even more Afghan reinforcements arrived. The new Afghans surrounded the wounded Baba Ji and pierced him with their long spears. Baba Ji with great effort used his khanda to cut off the spears and the Afghans again fell back. Baba Ji continued to challenge the Afghan reinforcements until eventually he was beheaded by the enemy and attained Shaheedi. Baba Ji's vow was completed.
Night fell and the Afghans were in shock after seeing such a bloody battle. They set up camp near the Bhangi fort and fell into a Deep sleep. The few Singhs that had remained hidden in the area though rose at night and attacked the camp. The Singhs stole horses and began to slaughter the exhausted Afghans. The remaining Afghans could not sleep in peace and at day break, they quickly fled from the area.
The same night, a few other Singhs came to the scene of the battle to see what had happened. They saw the headless bodies of the Singhs and many many Afghans. The Singhs decided to make one big pyre and cremate all the bodies together. Behind Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib, a lot of wood was gathered and all the bodies were cremated together. Degh was distributed and the Singhs celebrated as though a great wedding had taken place. The Shaheed Ganj of Baba Gurbaksh Singh still stands at that place.
Baba Ji's shaheedi was glorious, the Afghan power did began to fall after this point in time. Within a few years, the Sikhs began to rule Punjab and the Sikh Kingdoms were established. In today's dark period, where again the Sikhs are powerless and attacked from all sides, do we still have Shaheeds who can give their sacrifice and return power to the Khalsa?
According to an old manuscript which was preserved in the Sikh reference library, Amritsar, until it perished in the Government of India's Army action in 1984, and which is quoted by Singh Sahib Giani Kirpal Singh, he was born on Baisakh Vadi 5, 1745 Bk i.e. 10th April 1688 (father Dasaundha Singh, Mother Mai Lachchami). In 1698, the family shifted to Anandpur where Gurbakshash Singh took pahul of the Khalsa on the historic Baisakhi day of 1699. He completed his religious education under Bhai Mani Singh. He later joined the Shahid Misl under Baba Deep singh and after the latter's martyrdom in 1757 at Amritsar, organized his own Jatha or fighting band. In battles against Durranis (Afghanis) and Mughals his dera usually formed the vanguard carrying the banner, and won renown of its acts of gallantry.
This was an unequal fight - thirty pitted against thirty thousand. All thirty Sikhs were killed before Gurbaksh Singh, though throughout in the forefront, also fell. Giving an eyewitness account of the action, Qazi Nur Muhammad, the chronicler who was in the train of the invader, writes in his jangnamah when the king and his army reached the chakk(Amritsar), they did not see any infidel kafir there. But a few men stayed in a fortress were bent upon spilling their blood and they sacrificed themselves for their Guru They were only thirty in number. They did not have the least fear of death. They engaged the Ghazis (i.e. in Islamic terminology, a Ghazi is a muslim person who had killed an Infidel or a kafir) and spilled their blood in the process. Thus all of them were slaughtered and consigned to the seventh [hell].
This happened on 1 December 1764.