Guru Nanak was a champion to the downtrodden. He awakened them and told the truth that every person is a human being and has equal human rights. No king or a religious leader can take them away. Nanak used words sharper than the sword, which ripped off their cloaks exposing their corrupt and evil designs.
Guru Nanak knew well that his was not a path of roses. People who accept that path shall have to face great hardships. Accordingly he said, Those who want to follow me, should first agree to die for Truth.” The history tells that Sikhs as well as Gurus underwent many sacrifices and even offered their heads but did not leave the path told by Nanak.
To stop this revolution, rulers took up the sword. They tortured and martyred the fifth Nanak, Guru Arjan Dev. He observed the evil designs of the governor of Lahore who made two unsuccessful armed attempts to replace the guru with his stooge, Pirthi Chand. The guru trained his son, Hov Gobind, who was to be the 6th Nanak, to defend the faith if necessary with sword. Guru Har Gobind was attacked three times by the forces from Lahore and once by the armed people of the Administrative of Jullundur. Every time the guru was victorious.
The wrong impression appears to have been formed because Guru Gobind Singh changed the method of initiation to Sikhism and passed on the guru ship to the Khalsa. In 1699, he called a special gathering of Sikhs where with a glittering sword in his hand, he asked them to offer their heads to live up to the faith founded by Nanak. The first five persons who submitted themselves to the guru were given Amrit and named Panj Piarey, the five beloved. The guru authorized them to give Amrit to other Sikhs and he himself also took Amrit from them. This body of Amrit Dhari (Baptised) Sikhs was named Guru Khalsa Panth. It was an army of Saint soldiers, not to usurp the right of others but to protect and defend the right of downtrodden.
These facts should remove any misgivings that Guru Gobind Singh gave up the “Bhagati” path of Nanak to adopt the militant path. The path of Nanak, the other a gurus and the khalsa is the same, protecting and defending the human rights of the common man. For this Guru Nanak awakened the people and exposed the hypocrisy of the religious guides who collaborated with the rulers in committing sin and injustice. When the rulers feared danger to the power, they used swords. The 6th guru not the 10th guru, as usually thought, was forced to defend the path with sword.
The sword, to defend the faith, was first wielded by 6th Nanak and not by 10th Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh. The guru was obliged to do so when the government used their military might to force him to give up the path, speaking for the rights of the downtrodden. To avoid such armed clashes, the guru shifted his headquarters from Amritsar to Kiratpur a faraway place from Lahore.
Aurangzeb, the ruler of Delhi did not stop interfering in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. Having failed in other methods, he repeated the use of sword. Guru Teg Bahadur, was beheaded at Delhi in 1675. He collaborated with the Hindu Rajas of Himachal, in the neighborhood of Kiratpur to harass and bully Sikhs. For moving on the path laid by Nanak the guru had no alternative but to protect himself with sword. Like the 6th Nanak he never occupied any territory after defeating the forces attacking him. The impression that Guru Gobind Singh adopted a new militant path is therefore wrong.
Article extracted from this publication >> December 27, 1985