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The Saint - Soldier (Guru Gobind Singh)
The Saint - Soldier (Guru Gobind Singh)

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: The Saint - Soldier (Guru Gobind Singh):

The Forerunner of the Red Cross

The Forerunner of the Red Cross

Among the Mughal Emperors Akbar was very tolerant. He saw much that was good in all religions. However, his successors Jahangir, Shahjehan and Aurangzeb were less tolerant of religions other than Islam. Aurangzeb wanted to change India into an Islamic country, The tragedy was that many Hindus were accepting this religious persecution as their fate. The Ahinsa (non-violence) of Budha and Mahanvira was taken to extremes. The people behaved like cowards: because they thought that killing, even a fly, was against their religion. The Guru thought that this state of affairs was most dreadful.

The sacrifices made by Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur in defence of freedom of belief for all, had attracted the attention of many people. So Guru Gobind Singh put before the people a new programme by creating the Khalsa Panth a community of saint-soldiers. The Mughals thought this a challenge to their power, ambition and religious principles.

At Anandpur, Guru Gobind Singh lived with a few hundred of his Sikhs. A Mughal army under the Subedars of Sirhind and Lahore marched against the Guru. They laid siege to the city. For many months, the Sikhs fought with determination and kept the enemy out of the town. It was there that the miraculous now spirit was displayed by Sikh warriors. Bhai Bachittar Singh fighting a war elephantThe Mughal Commanders sent a fierce war-elephant to smash the gate of the fortress at Anandpur. As the elephant charged furiously towards the gate, the Guru asked one of his Sikhs to go out and light the wild beast. It was Baba Bachittar Singh who, armed with a Nagni (a special spear), went out and took up the challenge. The Mughal army on the one side and the Guru and his Sikhs on the other, watched the fight. To the amazement of all, the bravo Sikh killed the elephant. The weapon with which he fought and killed the elephant can still be seen at Anandpur. Aurangzeb had decided to crush the Sikhs once and for all. The Mughal soldiers, in their thousands, surrounded Anandpur. The demand of the enemy was either to surrender or to leave the town of Anandpur for good. The Guru would not agree to either of these demands. He replied that the town of Anandpur and the lands around, were his freehold property and the Mughals campaign  to expel him from that territory was unfair and unlawful. The Mughal Governors would not listen, so they faced a fierce struggle. It was a struggle purely for self defence because to the Guru none was his enemy and all human beings were his friends. The fierce battle went on for many days and many were wounded and lay on the ground in pain. The Guru's Sikhs were anxious to preserve a scrupulously fair struggle to defeat the Mughals.

Bhai Kanhayya serving water to wounded friends and foe alikeOne day in the thick of the fight, Bhai Kanhayya, a beloved Sikh, was looking after the wounded as usual. He was offering water to the thirsty soldiers. Since he was a true Sikh of the Guru, he did not make any distinction between the friend and the foe. After the battle some of the Sikh warriors complained to the Guru about Bhai Kanhayya's work. They said, "Look, dear Guru, here is a Sikh who was helping the enemy. He is a simpleton who does not make any distinction between our soldiers and that of the enemy. Would you please ask him to explain his behaviour?"

The Guru showed a little surprise and called Bhai Kanhayya to his side. He asked him if it was true that he offered water to the enemy.

"Yes, my Lord, it is true," replied Bhai Kanhayya, the water carrier.

"Why did you do that?" asked the Guru.

"For me, O Master, there were no friends and no foes. Their faces were all the same for me. Moreover, you always tell us to sing - 'None is my enemy, none a stranger. All human beings are my friends.'"

"Well done, Bhai Kanhayya, you acted like a true Sikh," said the Guru. "It is the foremost duty of a Sikh to help the needy and to relieve the sufferings of people without any prejudice whatsoever." Saying this the Guru at once sent another Sikh to fetch a box of ointment from his dispensary. The Sikh brought one without delay. The Guru handed over the box to Bhai Kanhayya and said "Bhai Kanhayya, remember, when you give water to the wounded, also apply this ointment to their wounds. By doing so you will be acting as a true Sikh of mine."

Thus we see that the Guru anticipated the foundation of the Red Cross Organization at Anandpur in 1704 A.D. Later on, after the fierce battle of Alphonso, in Italy, in 1859 Henri Dunant laid the foundation of the modern Red Cross on the same principles declaring, " ... All are brother." In the Punjab we can still find the followers of Bhai Kanhayya called "The Sewa Panthies" who do voluntary service in all situations and are very much respected by all.

Nowadays the Red Cross plays a very good part in looking after the sick and the wounded in disasters like war, earthquakes, floods or epidemics. It is a wonderful organization. We must all contribute generously to make it work more effectively and efficiently.

"None is my enemy, none a stranger.
All human beings are my friend."
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
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