Zafarnama : Declaration of Victory
Updated: Jan 3
ਚੂੰ ਕਾਰ ਅਜ਼ ਹਮਹ ਹੀਲਤੇ ਦਰ ਗੁਜ਼ਸ਼ਤ ਹਲਾਲ ਅਸਤ ਬੁਰਦਨ ਬ ਸ਼ਮਸ਼ੀਰ ਦਸਤ ॥ When all the stratagem employed for (solving) a problem are exhausted, (only) then taking your hand to the sword is legitimate
Zafarnama, meaning the "Declaration of Victory”, is the title of the letter sent by the tenth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji in 1705, to the Emperor of India, Aurangzeb. The letter is written in exquisite Persian verse. In this letter, Guru Ji reminds Aurangzeb how he and his henchmen had broken their oaths taken on the holy Quran and deceived Guru Saahib through their false promises. Zafarnama is included in Hikayats and is the first Hikayat. Despite this deception, the treacherous leaders never succeeded in harming Guru Saahib.
"ਸ਼ਹਿਨਸਾਹੋ ਖ਼ੂਬੀ ਕੇ ਦਿਹੋ ਰਹਨਮੰ”
He is the king of kings who is guiding us all the time. He showers his benevolence on all. He is without colour, incomparable and formless.
Guru Ji states in this letter that in spite of their sufferings due to the inhumanity of the Mughals and Pahaari Rajas (Hill Chieftains), they had won a moral victory over the crafty Mughal who had broken all his vows and had resorted to underhand behavior. Despite sending a huge army to capture or kill the Guru, the Mughal forces did not succeed in their mission. The letter reads like a reprimand by a superior personality on a higher plane to a cruel and distorted inhuman being on a lower and pitiful plane. Guru Ji in the 111 verses of this notice rebukes Aurangzeb for his weaknesses as a human being and for excesses as a leader. Guru Ji confirms their confidence and their unflinching faith in the Almighty even after suffering an extreme personal loss. Of the 111 verses, the maximum numbers of 34 verses are to praise God; 32 deal with Aurangzeb's invitation for the Guru to meet him and the Guru's refusal to meet the Emperor
- instead Guruji asks Aurangzeb to visit him going so far as to guarantee that no harm will come to him. With Khan brothers Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan on one side and Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Mann Singh on the other, they set off towards the village of Ghulal. They had gone hardly one mile when they were stopped by an army patrol and presented to the commander, who was not satisfied with their explanation. He sent word out to find anyone who knew and could identify the fakir (holy man). Sayyad Inayat Khan got word of this and came to the army camp. Sayyad Ji met the commander Daler Khan Garh Shankria, although he recognized Guru Ji he told him that this was indeed Uch-Ka-Pir and that holding up such a pious person was a sin. The commander was unnerved and went to the Pir with 500RS as a present and sincere apologies for his detention.The Guru was free to go. The Khan brothers and the Singhs carried Guru Ji on a manji.
It was at Ghulal village that Guru Ji asked for the Letter that was in the safe hands of Sayyad Khan. This letter was delivered under the instruction of Guru Ji by Daya Singh Ji to Emperor Aurangzeb (this first letter is not the one known as the Zafarnama. Bhai Daya Singh had taken this letter to Aurangzeb on December 26th, 1704. By the time he arrived, Aurangzeb had been briefed on Guru Ji being uprooted from Anandpur Sahib. He felt that an injustice had been done particularly when he had been promised safe passage from Anandpur on solemn oaths on the quran. The emperor assured Bhai Daya Singh that he would do justice and that Guru Ji may be requested to meet him in the Deccan. The Emperor agreed and sent two messengers with Bhai ji and the letter. Bhai Daya Singh reached Guru Ji at Dina in March 1705, a return journey of 900 miles that lasted three months. Guru Ji heard from Bhai Daya Singh the sympathetic and remorseful mood in which the Emperor had written the reply. However, there were mixed feelings of magnanimity and seriousness on Guru Ji's face as he thought the Emperor was not fully satisfied with his grievances. Guru Ji decided to send another even more detailed letter to the Emperor in which he neither promised nor refused to meet him in the Deccan. Bhai Daya Singh shrewdly replied that a written letter would have a more immediate effect. Though parts of the letter are an indictment of Aurangzeb and the treachery of his Mughal Generals and forces, other parts of the letter are like one from an older and wise veer (brave or valiant brother), more in touch with the part of the jyot (light ) of God in his heart, who though terribly wronged on one plane, is asking his lost veer, who he sees as having lost touch with the promise of his own religion and its Holy Quran, to return to the fold of brotherly love and make things right between them again. Amazingly 6 verses actually praise Aurangzeb. 24 verses detail the events in the Battle of Chamkaur, which took place on 21 and 22 December 1704; 15 verses reprove Aurangzeb for breaking written promises given by him and his Officers, written in the blank pages of a copy of the Qur'an, given to the Guru; In verses 78 and 79, the Master had also warned Aurangzeb about the resolve of the Khalsa not to rest until his empire and its evil practices is driven out of India or destroyed.
The second fortnight of December 1704 was the most difficult and critical period in the life of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It was during this period that forty Majhail Sikhs had deserted the Guru, the city of Anandpur had to be vacated, the Sarsa floods had brought havoc, Guru Ji's family had become separated, their two elder sons had been martyred before their own eyes, and Guruji had to escape from Chamkaur Sahib towards Machhiwara jungle. Even at Machhiwara, they were surrounded by enemy forces from all sides. In the jungle Guru Ji met two Pathan brothers Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan who were dressed in blue, Guruji asked them to preparesimilar clothes for them. In the meantime, Guru Ji sent for Sayyad Inayat Khan, one of their followers who lived nearby. Guru Ji entrusted him with a letter that was addressed to Emperor Aurangzeb for safekeeping. Using the blue garments, Guru Ji disguised themselves as Uch-KaPir (a holy man from Uch), and with their companions Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan. Although Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh traveled with great speed they could not get an early audience with the emperor. They stayed at the house of Bhai Jetha Ji. It was some months before the Sikhs met with the Emperor. Guru Ji had instructed Bhai Daya Singh to speak boldly and fearlessly before Aurangzeb when handing him the letter; this he did. The Emperor read the letter and felt that the Guru was a highly intelligent, truthful, and fearless warrior. He was nearly 91 years of age and his body started to tremble from feelings of remorse and regret at what he had done in his lifetime. Again he put pen to paper and wrote a letter to Guru Ji stating his inability to come to the north and requesting that Guru Ji meet him in Ahmadnagar at his earliest convenience. The letter was sent through royal messengers. The second letter called "Zafarnama" - the Epistle of Victory, written in Persian verse was sent from Dina in 1705 through two Sikhs, Bhai Daya Singh, and Bhai Dharam Singh. It was intentionally not entrusted to the Emperor's messengers because of the nature of its contents and because Guru Ji wanted to know the Emperor's immediate reaction on reading it, from his Sikhs. Guru Ji received the letter from Aurangzeb and after a period of rest decided to meet with the emperor, hence Guru Ji's decision to move to the Deccan. Guru Ji had no enmity against Islam. He did not harbor any ill will against Muslims, Guru Sahib Ji saw all with one gaze, a good many Muslims had sided with his cause against the Mughals. Now that Aurangzeb had invited Guru Ji with due humility and promised to do justice against those who had resorted to barbarous acts, Guru Ji felt justified in agreeing to meet the emperor in view of the latter's old age. By the time Guru Ji had entered Rajasthan news was conveyed to him that the emperor had died. Historical records as recorded by Bhai Santokh Singh show that the emperor had lost all appetite and power of digestion and could not expel any waste, whatever he took acted as poison in his body. He was in great pain and torment and he remained in this condition for several days, terrified, as it were, by his thoughts of the angels of death and the punishment of the grave. Thoughts of such must have weighed heavily upon the dying Emperor. Born in 1616, Aurangzeb lived for 91 years, his last Will confirms the degenerated state of his physical and mental health. The Zafarnama clearly shows that it was written from Machhiwara after the Battle of Chamkaur and after Guru ji had sacrificed his two elder sons on the battlefield. It also shows that although Guru Ji had suffered heavy losses in men and materials he was not in any way feeling vanquished but was full of confidence, faith, and courage to chastise and reprimand the Emperor for his deceitful activities.
The Emperor's peace of mind had been shaken, he wrote another letter to his sons in which he states "I do not know who I am, where I am, where I am to go and what will happen to a sinful person like me. Many like me have passed away wasting their lives. Allah was in my heart but my blind eyes failed to see him. I do not know how I will be received in Allah's court. I do not have any hope for my future, I have committed many sins and do not know what punishments will be awarded to me in return". The Zafarnama had a demoralizing effect on Emperor Aurangzeb who saw his end looming over the horizon and his future appeared very bleak. He saw Guru Gobind Singh Ji as his only hope who could show him the right and truthful path, as hinted by Guruji in his epistle. Although he had greatly wronged the Guru he knew him to be a man of God and wanted to meet with the Guru personally to seek redemption. He issued instructions to his Governors to withdraw all orders against Guru Ji. He instructed his minister Munim Khan to make arrangements for the safe passage of the Guru when he came to meet him. Guru Ji was not willing to go to Delhi yet and instead stopped outside the town of Sabo Ki Talwandi. According to Sikh chronologists, it was at Sabo Ki Talwandi that Guru Gobind Singh Ji untied his waistband after a period of nearly eighteen months and breathed a sigh of relief. This is why Sabo Ki Talwandi is known as Damdama Sahib (place of rest). It was at Damdama Sahib that Mata Sundri Ji learned the fate of the four Sahibzaday and of Mata Gujri Ji. It was also at Damdama Sahib that Guru Gobind Singh Ji re- wrote the Adi Guru Granth Sahib Ji from memory and added the Gurbani (Guru's writings) of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji.