Courting death for a righteous and just cause has been intrinsic to the core Sikh values. In Sikhism, such a death is always welcome. Death will not be bad, O people, only if one knew how to die : ਮਰਣੁ ਨ ਮੰਦਾ ਲੋਕਾ ਅਖੀਐ ਜੇ ਕੋਈ ਮਰ ਜਾਣੈ। (sggs p. 579) Willingly embracing death so that the law of justice prevails has been considered a fundamental right of a brave man. The death of brave heroes is blessed, if it is approved by God. Guru Granth Sahib says ਮਰਣ ਮੁਣਸਾਂ ਸੂਰਿਆ ਹਕੁ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਹੋਇ ਮਰਨਿ ਪਰਵਾਣੋ। (sggs p.579)
Realizing the moral and ethical bankruptcy in the socio religious and political life brought in by the life negating attitudes of the people of Hindustan, Guru Nanak Sahib decided to overhaul the whole system by bringing about a fundamental change in the thinking of the people. Life negating doctrine was replaced with a whole life and life affirming doctrine where all aspects of life were given due recognition and a man was exhorted to live a life of purpose and dignity in the service of humanity.
Guru Nanak Sahib was deeply pained to see the death and destruction caused by the invasion of Babur. He put it on record saying: ਮੁਗਲ ਪਠਾਣਾ ਭਈ ਲੜਾਈ ਰਣ ਮਹਿ ਤੇਗ ਵਗਾਈ॥ਓਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਤੁਪਕ ਤਾਣਿ ਚਲਾਈ ਓਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਹਸਤਿ ਚਿੜਾਈ॥ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕੀ ਚੀਰੀ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਾਟੀ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਮਰਣਾ ਭਾਈ॥ (sggs p.417) The battle raged between the Mughals and Pathans and the swords clashed in the battlefield. They took aim and fired their guns, and they attacked riding on their elephants. The men whose papers were torn in the Lords court, were destined to die, O the siblings of destiny. No community, not even women were exempted: ਇਕ ਹਿੰਦਵਾਣੀ ਅਵਰ ਤੁਰਕਾਣੀ ਭਟਿਆਣੀ ਠਕੁਰਾਣੀ॥ਇਕਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਪੇਰਣ ਸਿਰ ਖੁਰ ਪਾਟੇ ਇਕਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਵਾਸੁ ਮਸਾਣੀ॥ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕੇ ਬੰਕੇ ਘਰੀ ਨ ਆਇਆ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕਿਉ ਰੈਣਿ ਵਿਹਾਣੀ॥ (sggs p.418) (The Hindu women, the Muslim women, the Bhat women and the rajput women, some had their clothes torn from head to foot, while others came to dwell in cremation grounds. How those whose husbands did not return home, did they pass their night!)
Guru held a banner of protest against the cruel treatment of the natives by calling the invaders a marriage party of sin. ਪਾਪ ਕੀ ਜੰਞ ਲੈ ਕਾਬਲਹੁ ਧਾਇਆ ਜੋਰੀ ਮੰਗੈ ਦਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ॥(sggs . p 722 ) ( Bringing the marriage party of sin, Babur invaded from Kabul demanding our land as a wedding gift.)
Guru Nanak aimed at changing the whole scenario. He did not want anyone to suffer from deprivation and cruelty at the hands of the tyrants. He exhorted his followers to come to him with their heads on their palms if they wanted to play the game of Love. ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖਲਿੰਨ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ॥ ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ॥ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ॥(sggs p. 1412) If you desire to play the game of Love with me, step onto my path with your head on your palm. Once you step on this path, give me your head without hesitation or bothering about the public opinion.
Thus right from the start of the Sikh movement, the Gurus stood for Truth and righteousness and exhorted their followers to fight against those who subverted the truth.
The call of laying down one’s head for a righteous cause, given by Guru Nanak was carried on by his nine successors with the fifth and the ninth Guru laying down their lives for the sake of righteousness and human rights and the sixth Guru and the tenth Guru picking up arms in their hands as per the need of the time. The seventh Guru, inspite of maintaining an army decided to avoid the war and instead used his army to prevent the impending battle.
The fight for the Truth and Justice reached its peak with the young sons of the tenth Guru laying down their lives for the sake of these principles. The month of December every year brings alive the memory of four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh and his countless followers who laid down their lives fighting for the basic human liberties. The saga of Chamkaur Sahib when only forty Sikhs including two teenaged sons of the Guru fought ten lakh strong army of the Mughal king, while taking shelter in the improvised mud fortress (ਕਚੀ ਗੜ੍ਹੀ); is one of the brightest examples of the strength of spirit and commitment against heavy odds. In the face of sure death, the thought of surrendering before the enemy did not cross their mind even once.
The mere thought of the subsequent journey of Guru Gobind Singh through the jungles of Macchiwara, when he was without any human company, bare foot, without any bedding or warm clothing during the extreme winter season, would bring tears to the eyes of any right thinking and genuine person. The news of the passing away of his mother and the bricking alive of his younger sons at the tender age of six and eight at Sirhind, could not shake the steely resolve of the Guru to fight against the injustice and tyranny of the mighty rulers. Instead, he wrote a strong letter to the Emperor reminding him of all his misdeeds and suggesting him to mend his ways. He decided to name this letter Zafarnama – a letter of victory. Sure enough, it was the greatest moral victory, the victory of the spirit. The world is yet to see a parallel of the sacrifice made by the Guru family.
Yogi Allah Yaar Khan has paid a glowing tribute to the unparalleled sacrifice of the youngest martyrs in the history of the world:
Bas ek Hind mein tirth hai yatra ke liyae,
Katai Bap ne betey jahan khuda ke liyae
He further extols the importance of Chamkaur Sahib in Punjab saying it was the best place in the world for a pilgrimage
Bhatktey phirtey hain kion?
Haj karein yehan aa kar,
Yeh Kaba pass hai,
Har aik Khalsa ke liyae