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An Unprescedented Martyrdom: The martyrdom of Sahibzada

Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, the two younger sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Master of the Sikhs, born to Mata Jito Ji, which took place on December 12, 1705 is an unprecedented event and a major landmark in the history of Sikhs. Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, born on 17 November 1696 and 25 February, 1699 respectively at Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar, Punjab, following the foot-steps of their paternal grandfather Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the Ninth Sikh Guru sacrificed their lives for upholding a person's right to freedom of religion. Because of the death of their mother Mata Jito Ji on 5 December, 1700 these two children had been brought up by their paternal grandmother Mata Gujri Ji. The martyrdom of these two brave children took place thirty years after the martyrdom of their grandfather Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the Ninth Sikh Guru. The reason for the unique martyrdom of these two young children who sacrificed their lives at ages 9 years and 7 years respectively was Emperor Aurangzeb's staunch policy to spread Islam in all nooks and corners of his territory. For fulfilling his mission, Aurangzeb had issued orders to demolish all Hindu temples, Dharamshalas and Pathshalas and break all Hindu traditions. Restrictions were imposed on celebration of fairs and festivals by Hindus. He had established a separate Department under a Director General for this purpose and had established a jatha of mullans to go from place to place to demolish famous Hindu temples. Under these orders, the centuries old temples in Mathura, Ayodhya and Varanasi were demolished. The well-known Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, a popular place of pilgrimage of Hindus was also demolished. The city of Mathura was named as 'Islamabad'. Aurangzeb also directed all his Governors not to give jobs to Hindus and wherever possible dismiss Hindu employees. Thus, a large number of Hindus had been forcibly converted to Islam. In Kashmir more than half of the Brahmins had been converted to Islam. By 1674, this movement of forcible conversion to Islam had reached its climax. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the Ninth Master of the Sikhs sacrificed his life to rebuff this movement and his martyrdom on November 11, 1675 marked the anti-climax of Aurangzeb's mission. After his martyrdom, his son Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji who became the Tenth Guru took cudgels against this Muslim emperor who was bent upon killing all those individuals who stood in his way of Islamikaran. Thus, Aurangzeb considered Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who was following the foot-steps of his father, to save Hindus from conversion, as one of his chief enemies. The institution of Khalsa by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji which was given a concrete form on the Baisakhi day of 1699, through initiation of Panj Piaras at Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar, Punjab further infuriated the Mughal ruler. The Rajput chiefs of Shivalik hills who felt threatened by the increasing power of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji decided to come together and help the Mughal ruler in combating the Tenth Guru Ji's activities. They joined hands under the leadership of the Raja of Bilaspur in whose territory fell the town of Anandpur Sahib to forcibly oust Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji from his hilly citadel. During 1700-1704, the hilly monarchs raided Anandpur Sahib many times but yielded no fruit. Having been frustrated by their failures, they requested Emperor Aurangzeb for help to which he readily agreed. In May 1705, in collaboration with the contingents sent under imperial orders by the Governor of Lahore and those of Wazir Khan, the faujdar of Sirhind they invaded Anandpur Sahib and laid a siege to the fort and made incessant attacks. Inspite of scarcity of ammunition as well as food, Guru Sahib and his Sikhs gave a firm fight to these incessant2 assaults. Feeling helpless the attackers cunningly gave an offer to Guru Sahib to provide safe exit to him and his Sikh forces if he agreed to quit Anandpur Sahib. Guru Sahib accepted the offer. But during the night of 5-6 December, 1705 as soon as, Guru Sahib alongwith his four sons - Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji, Sahibzada Jujhar Singh Ji, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji and his mother Mata Gujri Ji and the Sikhs started coming out, the hilly chiefs and their Mughal allies started attacking them. While crossing on horseback the rivulet Sirsa, a tributary of Sutlej river which was in full spate, the two younger sons of Guru Ji Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji aged 9 years and 7 years respectively and their paternal grandmother Mata Gujri Ji got separated from the rest of the family. To commemorate this event Gurdwara Parivar Vichchora Sahib has been established at this place, which is 12 kms north of Ropar. Gangu, an old cook of the family promised to take them i.e. the two younger Sahibzadas and their grandmother Mata Gujri Ji to his village Kheri, now known as Saheri near Morinda in Ropar District of Punjab. It may be added that while escorting them during the dark night because of hazardous pathways Gangu lost his way and bypassing Saheri he walked towards the village Rangia which is about 1.6 kms southward from Saheri. As soon as he realized his error, in order to work out the correct route to his village, he asked Mata Gujri Ji and the Sahibzadas to wait under a mango-grove. At the site of the mango-grove which is out in the fields about half a km away from Saheri in the sacred memory of Mata Gujri Ji and the Sahibzadas a Gurdwara Sahib has been established. In village Saheri there are two other Gurdwaras one of them Gurdwara Attak Sahib is situated at the site of Gangu's house. They reached Saheri only on the night of 6-7 December. While unsaddling the horse Gangu saw some cash and valuables in their saddle-bag which tempted him to betray them. On reaching his village, he stole the saddle-bag during the night. Gangu became so greedy and deceitful that in the hope of a sumptuous reward from the Mughals he decided to betray them and on the morning of December 7, 1705 he handed them over to Jani Khan and Mani Khan Ranghar, the officials of Morinda who immediately took all the three into custody. In the meantime, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji passing through the village Brahman Majra on 6 December had reached Chamkaur Sahib which is 40 kms south-west of Anandpur Sahib with his two elder sons Sahibzadas Ajit Singh Ji andJujhar Singh Ji aged 18 years and 14 years respectively and about forty Sikhs. The imperial army and the army of hilly monarchs had followed them. In the furious battle which ensued on 7 December, 1705 at Chamkaur Sahib between Guru Sahib on one hand and these two armies on the other, both the elder sons of Guru Sahib Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh Ji earned martyrdom. On December 8, 1705 Jani Khan and Mani Khan Ranghar took the two younger Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh Ji and Fateh Singh Ji and their grandmother to Sirhind and handed them over to Wazir Khan who had just returned from the battle of Chamkaur Sahib with Guru Sahib and was full of vengeance. He immediately put all of them in the Cold Tower of the Fort. A devout Sikh Moti Ram Mehra Ji, not caring for the anger of the Mughals visited the Cold Tower and served them milk. As per Wazir Khan's orders, on December 9, 1705 Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh Ji and Fateh Singh Ji were produced before him. He tried to tempt them with promises of wealth and honour if they adopted Islam. But both of them rejected his offer bravely. Wazir Khan repeatedly threatened them that if they do not accept Islam they would be put to death. But they remained firm in their faith. Wazir Khan finally announced death sentence for them if they did not accept Islam. Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan Ji of Malerkotla intercepted and protested that these two young children were innocent and it would be utter cruelty to kill them. On the contrary, Suchchanand a courtier of3 Wazir Khan as quoted from a Persian poet said 'the progeny of a serpent shall grow up as serpants, and he is not wise who forgets that a wolf's offspring shall be a wolf. Therefore, no mercy should be shown to them.' Thus, remaining staunch in his decision Wazir Khan ordered that they be sealed alive in a wall if they refused to accept Islam. For another two days they were kept in the Cold Tower in the severe wintry weather. On December 11, 1705 under the orders of Wazir Khan they were to be paved with bricks standing on the ground at a place 5 kms north of Sirhind near the Cold Tower. However, in constructing the wall around them when the masons reached above chest height of the younger Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, it crumbled and inspite of their best efforts they could not complete it. The two Sahibzadas were again sent to the Cold Tower. The next day i.e. on December 12 they were again given the choice to get converted to Islam or embrace death. They firmly chose death and bravely faced the executioner's sword. In the fond memory of the martyrs Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib stands at the sacred site of their martyrdom and this town is now known as Fatehgarh Sahib after the name of the younger Sahibzada. On hearing the sad news of death of her grandsons, Mata Gujri Ji died of shock. During the night of December 12 the sacred bodies of these three martyrs were kept at a place about 100 meters to the east from the site of martyrdom just outside the fort wall where now stands Gurdwara Bimangarh Sahib. As per historical evidence, Seth Todar Mall Ji an influential and rich trader of Sirhind decided to perform the last rites, but in view of the ire of Mughals none would give him a piece of land for this purpose. At last Chaudhri Atta agreed to sell him as much land as he could cover with gold mohars. Thus Seth Todar Mall Ji cremated the three sacred corpses at a place about one and a half kilometers to the south-east from the site of martyrdom of the Sahibzadas where now stands Gurdwara Joti Sarup Sahib. Sardar Jodh Singh a devout Sikh of Attevali village put the sacred ashes in an urn and burried them at the same spot. In the basement of Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib the wall which was constructed on December 11, 1705 is still in existence though with certain changes. The pilgrims who had visited this sacred place 65 years ago tell that at that time the original wall which was made of small Sirhindi bricks joined with lime mortar was in existence and the crack which occurred on one side of the wall while the masons were constructing it, was also visible. But now this wall has been painted with a shining paint which has concealed its original form. Lacs of Sikh pilgrims visit this sacred place every year to pay homage to the young martyrs Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji. The pilgrims also pay their obeisance at Gurdwara Qatalgarh Sahib, the place of martyrdom of the two elder Sahibzadas - Ajit Singh Ji and Jujhar Singh Ji. A Muslim poet Allayar Khan Jogi in his poem in urdu Ganj-e-Shaheedan (1913) has given a touching narration of the whole incident commemorating the cruelty of the Mughal empire and the fearlessness of the young Sahibzadas. He recited this poem in large gatherings of Sikhs in the second and third decades of the 20th century. The pilgrims also pay their obeisance at Gurdwara Mata Gujri Ji, which is close to the main Gurdwara, where the two Sahibzadas along with their grandmother Mata Gujri Ji were detained from December 8 to December 12, 1705 and where on December 12, 1705 Mata Gujri Ji, on hearing about the death of her grandsons had breathed her last. One historian has given 1704 as the year of martyrdom of the Sahibzadas. During the tercentenary program which was held in 2004 over one million pilgrims paid their obeisance at Gurdwara Fatehgarh4 Sahib and other Gurdwaras in Fatehgarh Sahib where at each place they had to stand up in queues for four hours. The pilgrims also paid their homage at Gurdwara Qatalgarh Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib and at Gurdwara Joti Sarup Sahib, the place where the three martyrs were cremated. At these Gurdwaras also the pilgrims had to stand up in queues for four hours. It is worth mentioning that when in 1710 Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji's forces killed Wazir Khan and conquered Sirhind as well as in 1764 when forces of Dal Khalsa killed Zain Khan whom Ahmed Shah Abdali had appointed faujdar of Sirhind, no memorial was raised at the place of cremation of the young martyrs and their grandmother. Therefore, when Maharaja Karam Singh of Patiala wanted to re-build Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib he had to locate the exact spot of cremation. He was successful in discovering the urn containing the sacred ashes and in 1843 he constructed a Gurdwara at this spot and named it Gurdwara Joti Sarup Sahib. A century later, in 1944 Maharaja Yadvindra Singh of Patiala instituted a committee for renovation of Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib and Grudwara Joti Sarup Sahib. As a result, in 1955 two upper storeys and a dome were added to Gurdwara Joti Sarup Sahib. In the meantime, in 1951 when a Jodhpur Prince Himmat Singh married Princess Shailendra Kaur of Patiala, the Maharaja of Jodhpur donated money for constructing a separate shrine dedicated to the sacred memory of Mata Gujri Ji. Consequently, on the ground floor in the south-western corner of the circumbulatory verandh a samadh in the form of a small square canopied platform was built with white marble. This year i.e. in 2022 to observe the 317th martyrdom day of the brave young martyrs a fortnight long programme called Sabha was started on December 14 at Gurdwara Parivar Vichchora Sahib by starting an Akhand Paath. A three-day programme (December 14-16) was held at this place during which devans (religious congregation) were held and thousands and thousands of pilgrims paid their obeisance to the brave young martyrs. During December 17-19 the Sabha was held at Gurdwara Bhattha Sahib, Ropar. The Sabha will also pass through the village Brahman Majra on December 19 which is 11 kms south-east of Ropar and falls in Distt. Ropar. It may be mentioned here that Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji while going from Kotla Nihang Khan to Chamkaur Sahib along with his two elder sons and 40 Sikhs passed through this village. At the place of Guru Sahib's visit now stands Gurdwara Guru Garh Sahib. Earlier Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib had also visited this village. The venue of the Sabha keeps changing as per historical events in chronological order. The Sabha will be held at Chamkaur Sahib, the place of martyrdom of Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh Ji during December 21-22-23 and then it will be held at Machhiwara Sahib. During December 26-27-28 the Sabha will be held at Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib. The place of martyrdom of Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji. On December 28 a Nagar Kirtan (procession) will be started from Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib and culminate at Gurdwara Jyoti Sarup Sahib, the site of cremation of the two Sahibzadas and Mata Gujri Ji. Every year lacs of pilgrims join in this heart-rending Nagar Kirtan and pay their obeisance to the brave young martyrs.

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