Baba Deep Singh Shaheed (26th January 1682 - 13th November 1757), is one of the most honoured martyrs in Sikh history. Baba Deep Singh was the founder of the Shaheed Misl (group). He was the first head of Damdami Taksal (Damdama school of learning) a 300 years old religious school of the Sikhs which was founded by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Tall and strong, Baba Deep Singh Ji was an exceptionally brave Sikh.
A bold and fearless saint-soldier Baba Deep Singh 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 in November 1757 when he was about 75 years old. From about 12 years of age, he grew up around the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Baba Deep Singh 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 Deep Singh - a Scholar
• 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 Harmandir Sahib. After picking up his head and carrying it on his palm, whilst continuing to fight, he kept his promise by continuing. He then left for Sach Khand with his severed head resting on the parkarma of Harmandir 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.
Baba Deep Singh's bhoora
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, Baba Ji 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 Gujari Kaur was also joti jot in thanda burj in which she and the two princes were held at Sirhind.
Baba Deep Singh - a Soldier
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.
Baba Deep Singh Ji was soon regarded as one of the most devout Sikhs of his time. While preparing copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Baba Deep Singh Ji questioned Bhai Mani Singh Ji about a line of gurbani: "mitar pyare nu hal fakeera da kahna". Baba Deep Singh Ji felt that the line had been stated incorrectly because the Guru could never be a fakeer (beggar). He felt that the line should have been stated as "mitar pyare nu hal mureedan da kahna". Bhai Mani Singh Ji warned Baba Deep Singh Ji that in order to make an alteration to gurbani, he would need to give a part of himself in return. Baba Deep Singh Ji agreed to this, declaring that he was prepared to give his head for the sake of the panth. Therefore, Baba Ji was given the title of "Shaheed" (martyr) while alive.
After the completion of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 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 Takht Sahib, Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib (Patna), Takht Sri Hazur Sahib and Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib. Later the learned scholar inscribed another copy of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Arabic script which 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 Harmandir 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 1707, Baba Deep Singh Ji joined Banda Singh Bahadur 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, Baba Deep Singh Ji beheaded Wazir Khan.
In 1716, the Sikh community became divided into two separate groups. One group, known as the Bandahi Khalsa, believed that Banda Singh Bahadur is the last Sikh guru, while the other group, the Tatt Khalsa, believed that Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the guru. These two groups began to dispute over control of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Baba Deep Singh Ji was asked to help in reaching an agreement between the two parties. After speaking to both sides, it was decided by Baba Deep Singh Ji and Bhai Mani Singh Ji that two slips of paper would be written with each group's name on it. The slips of paper would then be tossed into the sarovar (pool of holy water); whichever group's paper stayed afloat the longest would be allowed to stay at Sri Harmandir Sahib while the other group would agree to leave. Both parties agreed to this solution.
An old painting depicting the last battle of Baba Deep Singh
Baba Deep Singh Ji did ardas (prayer) and let the slips float in the water. In a few minutes, one paper began to sink and soon disappeared beneath the water. The other slip, which remained afloat, was lifted out of the sarovar. The name on this slip was Tatt Khalsa - therefore, the Bandahi Khalsa were forced to leave Sri Harmandir Sahib forever.
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 Shaheedi misl. As the leader of the Shaheedi misl, he achieved numerous victories for the Sikhs. The Shaheedi 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 Shaheed.
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.
Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh at Sri Harmandir Sahib
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.
Baba Deep Singh draws a line in the ground, asking only those who were willing to fight and die to cross the line
Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to escape to Lahore. Angered by the attack from the Sikhs, he decided to destroy the Sikh community. He appointed his son, Taimur Shah, as the governor of Lahore, and made the veteran general Jahan Khan his general. In order to destroy the source of the Sikh's spiritual strength, he ordered Jahan Khan to destroy Sri Harmandir Sahib. Following orders, in 1757, Jahan Khan proceeded to Amritsar with heavy artillery. The Sikh fortress of Ram Rauni was razed to the ground. Many Sikhs died trying to defend Sri Harmandir Sahib but unfortunately the gurdwara and its surrounding buildings were demolished and the sarovar was filled with dirt, dead animals and debris. Sri Harmandir Sahib was then closed to all Sikhs.
At this time, Baba Deep Singh Ji was at Damdama Sahib. When he learned about this disturbing news, he immediately declared his intention of expelling the Afghans and rebuilding the gurdwara. He took a vow not to come back alive without fulfilling this mission. Baba Deep Singh Ji did ardas while promising to get to Sri Harmandir Sahib: "Sir jaave ta jaave, mera Sikhi sidhak na jaave" (If my head goes, it goes... but don't let my Sikhi go)".
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 Harmandir 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.
Baba Deep Singh holding his severed head on his left palm
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 head.
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, "..Baba Ji you had said in ardaas that you should fall martyr within the precincts of Darbar sahib, but you seem to be retiring from the fight here...".
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 (with strength derived from the recitation of JapJi Sahib) and moving towards Sri Harmandir 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 fulfilled his oath on finally reached Sri Harmandir Sahib - there he bowed and lay his head on the parkarma (rectangular walkway) of this sacred Gurdwara. The Sikh Army continued to fight the fleeing Mughals until victory was achieved. Baba Deep Singh ji is remembered by all Sikhs as a brave and courageous martyr with an unflinching dedication to the Sikh principles.
A large marble octagonal tile marks the spot where
Two Gurdwaras now commemorate the martyr, one on the circumambulatory terrace of the Sarovar surrounding the Harmandir Sahib where he finally fell and the other, Shaheed ganj Baba Deep Singh Shaheed, near Gurdwara Ramsar, where his body was cremated. The places where Baba ji drew the line, engaged in battle, lost his head 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.
Soon thereafter, the Sikhs, under the two Jassa Singhs - Ahluwalia and Ramgarhia - avenged the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh. In 1758, they defeated the Afghans. The first thing they did was to rebuild the Holy Gurdwara and clean the Sarovar.
When Durrani invaded the Punjab again in 1762, he gave vent to his wrath by once again demolishing the Harmandir and polluting the Holy tank with bovine blood. This time he even took the Granth Sahib away to Kabul. He had barely reached his Capital when the Sikhs regrouped and crushed the Afghans. The Afghans were made to do penance by cleaning the Sarovar and rebuilding the Gurdwara they had destroyed.
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