Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Sikh Master, has implanted a lasting stamp on
human history. The revolutionary movement, which had gradually evolved under
the leadership of the preceding Sikh Gurus, reached its culmination under him. The
Khalsa under him had to face a formidable challenge from its adversaries, the Hindu
Rajas. He was, therefore, forced to fight against them and naturally could not lead
a well-settled life. He was born at Patna in A.D. 1666. He was hardly six years
when he left for Anandpur. After some years stay at Anandpur, he proceeded to
the State of Nahan and had his headquarters at Paonta for over four years. Towards
the end of 1688, he returned to Anandpur where he stayed on till 1705. After leaving
Anandpur, he moved into the interior of the Malwa where he travelled widely. Towards the end of 1706 he set out for the Deccan with a view to meeting Emperor
Aurangzeb at the latter's invitation. His journey lay through Rajasthan. When he
had gone as far as 8aghaur, he was apprised of the Emperor's death. Immediately, he
obandoned the idea of proceeding any further and turned towards Delhi with
the object of meeting Prince Muazzim and watching, as he says in his autobiography,
the 'Sultani' war. After a few days stay at Delhi, he moved on to Agra where he
was received in royal audience by the vicotrious Prince Muazzim, now Emperor
Bahadur Shah. After a few months when the Emperor set out for Rajasthan, the
Guru also decided to go along with him. This was his second visit to the land
of the Rajputs. The Emperor soon had to march towards the Daccan. The Guru
proceeded with him up to Nander, a place on the Godavari bank, where he separated from the Imperial Camp. This was the last place visited by him, for he breathed his last soon afterwards in October, 1708.
Consequently, while formulating plans for the celebration of the tercentenary of
Guru Gobind Singh, it was decided to bring out a detailed atlas of his travels having a separate map of each major movement along with an explanatory note bearing on
it. Though the work started immediately, it could not be brought out at the time of
celebrations, because the project had to be carried out with great care. I am well
aware that despite every possible care there may still be some shortcomings in the
present work. But this is only a pioneer attempt and perfection cannot be expected in a pioneer work.
Here I must mention that this work is the result of a corporate effort of Dr.
Ganda Singh, Dr. Fauja Singh, S. Mehar Singh Gill and S. Hazara Singh. I shall be
failing in my duty if I do not thank them.
Geography is one of the basic and pre-eminent factors that effectively
enter into historical processes. The sooner this truth is realised, the better it
would be for the advancement of historical knowledge. Without a firm grasp of the inter-relationship of the two, many tangles of history would never be perfectly unraveled. An eminent historian Arnold Toynbee has explained the very rise
and fall of civilizations in terms of this inter-relationship. Geography does not
merely furnish the stage for the forces of history to operate on ; its role is far more extensive and vital. The actions of individuals as well as groups invariably bear
its imprint in some form or the other. The physical frames of the people, as also their emotional responses, their economic preferences as well as their social attitudes are largely conditioned by it. Similarly, the economy as well as the political, cultural and commercial relations of a country with the outside world are
to a large extent, shaped and molded by the character of its frontiers, soil, climate and products. Even more significantly, what position a country ultimately holds in the comity of nations, would, in a vital sense hinges upon what geographical position it occupies in the physical world. This is, indeed, the main centre of
interest and investigation, in what has recently came to be known as geopolitics.
The above remarks are applicable to all countries including India. But
perhaps in respect of certain parts of India, say for instance the north-western
region, the influence of terrestrial morphology will find very few parallels in the history of the world. Waves upon waves of people have come from outside
and have enriched its composite culture, besides releasing new forces of history that have left their permanent mark on the growth of our people. It is indeed owing to differential and disparate influence of geography in different areas that
we witness to-day such a complete diversity of cultures or modes of living.
What is true of countries or groups of people is also true of individuals,
more particularly if they happen to be leaders of movements. For instance, it is
not without significance that all the major belts of revolt against the heavy and
galling yoke of Emperor Aurangzeb were seated in difficult hilly regions. One
such revolt was led by Guru Gobind Singh. As he travelled widely and had an
extensive field of operations, a detailed and comprehensive understanding of his movements, plans and battles is impossible without the aid of geography. A number of biographies have recently been attempted. They are good in so far as they go, but none of them fulfils the need of a scientific study which is still a
great desideratum. The main reason for that is that the sovereign factor of
geography has not so far been attended to with the care it rightly deserves.
But geography in the case of Guru Gobind Singh is not merely a matter of
biographical interest; it is really the key to the understanding of all 'his plans and movements.
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