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The Siege of Anandpur (1705)

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Artistic Interpretation of Sikh Warrior

Artistic Interpretation of Sikh Warrior

Photo Art © [Courtesy Jedi Nights]

The 1705 Mughal Siege of Sikhs in Anandpur Sahib:

In late 1704, Tenth Guru Gobind Singh called the Sikhs to join him in Anandpur Sahib where he continued resistance against enemy hill chiefs and Mughal forces bent on his destruction. Among the hundreds who joined him were his mother, wives, and sons, and the brothers of Mai Bhago. Though greatly outnumbered, the valiant Sikhs fought so cleverly and courageously that they could not be beaten. By spring of 1705, the enemy's only recourse was to cut off supply lines and hope to starve out the Sikhs. The Sikhs held out for seven months, from May until December, while supplies dwindled. With water in short supply, some Sikhs grumbled after discovering the compassionate Bhai Kanhaiya giving drinks to enemy soldiers who had fallen in battle beside the Guru's wounded warriors he tended.

Foraging:

As weeks turned into months, food and water became scarcer with each passing day until rations were reduced to a single handful of grain per person daily. Hill raja Ajmer Chand discovered and diverted a spring which had been the Sikhs sole source of water. The desperate Sikhs lived on whatever they could find and sent out foraging parties after dark to scour the hills for edibles. Learning that a party of Sikhs had left the fortress to look for food, the enemy waited until their return before attacking, hoping to further demoralize those still within the gates. The outnumbered Sikhs sold their lives dearly, each one dispatching several of their enemies before succumbing to injuries.

Trickery and Treachery:

Aware of the Sikh’s desperate plight, the hill rajas offered a treaty of safe passage for anyone willing to leave Anandpur. Starving Sikhs pressured Guru Gobind Singh to accept terms and leave their fortress. The Guru had no reason to trust his opponents. To convince his Sikhs of the enemy’s false intentions, the Guru had them round up refuse, bundle it in rich materials, and send it out of the garrison after dark packed on the backs of donkeys. As soon as the convoy cleared the fort, six thousand of the enemy swooped down and absconded with what they took to be valuable goods, only to discover in the morning light they had captured a load of old worn out foot wear, discarded clothing and household items, and decaying animal bones and droppings.

Hardships and Starvation:

The Moghul emperor Aurangzeb sent a letter to Guru Gobind Singh declaring that he had sworn on the Qur’an (Koran), and had made an oath to Allah and Muhammad to promise safe passage to all who lay down arms and departed Anandpur. They had nothing to fear for no one should dare to cause the Guru or his Sikhs harm. Guru Gobind Singh placed no hope in the empty promises and would not agree. Desperate Sikhs made a case to Mata Gujri, the Guru’s mother to plead with the Guru on their behalf. Sikhs who felt they could no longer endure the hardships of starvation and deprivation parleyed with the Guru. The Guru feared for the Sikhs safety and not wanting responsibility for their deaths offered to allow them to renounce him as their Guru. Unwilling to do so, they lingered with him, but increasingly pressured him to accept terms.

Hope and False Promises:

Another letter came addressed to Mata Gujri with an offer of safe passage. The despairing Sikhs entreated her to influence her son the Guru. Putting no faith in false promises and feeling certain that Sikhs should be massacred if they were to leave the fortress, Guru Gobind Singh requested them to hold out another three weeks. Sikhs, who felt that it would be impossible to survive with no food or water available, could not agree. The Guru then requested them to remain with him for just another five more days, but they felt even a single day to be unreasonable. Guru Gobind Singh insisted the treacherous Mughals would never let Sikhs pass in safety unless they first renounced him. Despite their reluctance to disown their Guru, when faced with deplorable conditions and certain starvation, the possibility of escape seemed the only hope for despairing Sikhs.

Desperation and Desertion:

Acting on the sympathies of Mata Gujri, a Muslim and a Hindu Brahmin combined forces and sent a letter of promising safe passage affixed with sacred implements and the seals of prominent Hindu chiefs. Even then, Guru Gobind Singh's mother was unable to alter his decision to remain with her request. Several prominent Singhs also attempted to persuade him to agree, however he stood firm his resolve and they could not influence him to do otherwise. The Sikhs then urged Mata Gujri to depart with the Guru's wives and younger sons, feeling sure he would follow after her.

Evacuation of Anandpur:

On the evening of December 5, 1705, Mata Gujri began making preparations to flee in the night. The despairing Sikhs felt they could hold out no longer. Producing paper and ink, Guru Gobind Singh insisted that anyone who wished to leave him sign articles of desertion before returning home. Historians indicates that *40 deserters signed disclaimer documents, and that **40 faithful warriors refused to leave the Guru's side come what may. The Guru then declared immediate evacuation and ordered everything left behind to be burned or buried. The Guru assigned Gurbaksh, an Udasi aesthetic to look after the cremation area of his father Ninth Guru Teg Bahadar who had been beheaded by Mughals. Guru Gobind Singh departed the fort under cover of darkness with 500 followers escorted by his 40 faithful Sikhs including:

  • The Guru's eldest two sons:
    • Ajit Singh
    • Jujhar Singh (**Zarowar Singh) -
  • Three of the five beloved Panj Pyare:
    • Daya Singh
    • Himmat Singh
    • Mukham Singh
  • Udai (Ude) Singh
  • Sham Singh
  • Gulab Rai
*History of Sikh Guru's Retold Vol. 2 by Surjit Singh Gandhi
**The Sikh Religion Vol. 5 by Max Arthur Macauliffe

More:
Sikhs Flight From Anandpur Sahib (December 1705)

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