The Sikh religion, at first started by Guru Nanak as a way of life depicting simple ways to attain union with the Supreme Being through honest labour and recitation of the name of God (by whatever name you remember Him) passed through many stages of development in the times of the next nine Gurus. By word and deed, the Gurus taught the masses to stand up against exploitation by the religious leaders and rulers and fight discrimination on account of religion, caste and creed. The culmination of this process of awakening was the formation of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh who created a force of Singhs (literally lions) by administering nectar to members of all castes from the same steel bowl thus abolishing all barriers separating humanity. Thus he created an army of saint-soldiers.
When he asked the hill rajas to join hands with him to fight foreign domination and repression on account of religion, they refused on the plea that they could not associate with one who had brought the lower castes on par with the higher ones of Brahmins and Kshatris. He had then, told them of his resolve, "I shall make lions out of sheep. I shall make the commoners fight the kings. I shall let the poor be called kings. I shall get sparrows defeat the hawks. I shall instill power in a simple one to fight one and a quarter lakhs. Only then shall I be known as Guru Gobind Singh."
Guru Gobind Singh had instilled all these qualities in the Khalsa. Only his promise of making the subjects the kings, remained. It was with this end in view that he sent Bana Banda Singh Bahadur with twenty-five Singhs to establish a Khalsa republic. Baba Nanda Singh was successful when he captured Sirhind in May 1710 AD. His rules, though short-lived, was the first Khalsa republic. It did not last long as the odds were very heavy against him but it awakened in the masses an urge to rise and stand up against oppression. It paved the way for the second Khalsa republic under Sikh Sardaras (chiefs) as the people started becoming Singhs in the face of opposition from the fanatic Muslim rulers and organizing themselves. After a drawn out struggle of fifty years, Sikh Sardars and chiefs of Sikh Misls were able to establish Khalsa republic second time, starting from Amritsar, spread to Peshawar in the North-West, Kashmir in the North and banks of Jamuna in the South-East.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh gradually annexed the areas controlled by other Sikh Misls and chiefs and Pathans to the Khalsa republic. The urge to avoid annexation prompted the states south of Sutlej seek British protection limiting his expansion on this side but he made it up by expansion towards North-West. He was the first Indian ruler to reverse the process of attacks on India from that side.
The illness of the Maharaja and unheeding of the suggestion of the brave general Hari Singh Nalwa that the man to succeed him should be selected by the Khalsa through the institution of the 'Panj Piaras' brought an early downfall to this great republic who claimed respect from even the mighty British as the selfish traitors used his weak successors for self-interest.
S. Santokh Singh Jagdev, through this eighth book in the 'Bed Time Stories series has depicted in brief the efforts, struggle, sacrifices and heroism that went in the formation of the Khalsa republics. I pray that his efforts to make the young generation familiar with the Sikh heritage be blessed by the "Supreme Being.
In the end, I take liberty to point out that while there are many institutions and memorials bearing the name of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, little has been done to perpetuate the memory of the founder of the first Khalsa republic, that sorcerer turned Singh, the brave warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.
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