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The Invincible Golden Temple


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
By Kulwant Singh

The foundation stone of Harmandar Sahib was laid by Sufi saint Mian Mir in the year 1589. The site of the Sarovar is no ordinary place. It has a rich legendry past. It is the same site where prehistoric "Amrit Kund" existed, near the ashram of sage Valmiki. The great epic Ramayana was composed here.

Guru Hargobind constructed Akal Takht, a symbol of the highest seat of temporal authority. The Golden Temple complex has a spiritual and temporal authority – Miri and Piri. It became a natural command centre for Sikhs, and has been so, always.

Despite the divinity of Harmandar Sahib, it has been desecrated and destroyed several times more than any other Indian shrine. It was reconstructed every time with the voluntary contribution and kar seva, always making it better than before. All those responsible for sacrileges of the holy of the holiest abode of God, have been punished by the Almighty himself; each one of them died a miserable death.

When Gurus were alive, they remained the centre of Sikh activity. Banda Singh Bahadar rallied Sikhs, established Sikh sovereignty. After Banda, Sikhs had to go into hiding for some time to avoid being prosecuted by the Mughals. Mindless genocide helped inflame Sikh militancy; they retaliated by killing government officials, plundering Mughal posts and treasuries. The Golden Temple became their rallying point. Despite the danger, they would reach the Sarovar, galloping on their horses, with a quick halt for a dip and then get away speedily.

Mughals realised that extreme measures of persecution had failed to tame the Sikhs, who continued to strike at will from their hideouts in jungles and lower hills. The government tried to persuade them with a compromise; they conceded to the Sikhs a status of sub-nation, and offered them jagir in 1733. The Sikh stand was that the Khalsa meant to rule freely; could not permanently accept a subordinate position. This short-lived compromise failed and the atrocities on Sikhs increased manifold.

The government occupied the Golden Temple and its precincts 1736; the Sarovar was filled with carcasses of slaughtered animals. Bhai Mani Singh, custodian of Darbar Sahib, 90 years old, and companion of Guru Gobind Singh, revered by Hindus and Muslims alike, was arrested. On refusal to convert to Islam, he was brutally tortured and cut into pieces at Lahore. This angered Sikhs like nothing else had. They vowed to avenge, looking for an opportunity, which came soon.

Nadir Shah invaded India in 1739. Zakriya Khan, Governor of Lahore, was among the first ones to submit to him. Sikhs refused to accept his sovereignty over Punjab. Nadir Shah was very ruthless. He was responsible for the katle-aam in Delhi. Close to two lakh people were killed in half a day. He took away the famous Pea{censored} throne and Kohinoor diamond, and plundered Delhi for months. Thousands were made slaves and taken away by him. No one dared to oppose him except the valiant Sikhs, who came out of their hideouts, attacked his baggage train, relieving him of much of the loot and freeing many men and women from being taken to Persia as slaves.

Zakriya appointed a notorious landlord, Massa Rangarh, known to have killed many Sikhs, to be in charge of Darbar Sahib. He indulged in the worst possible sacrileges of using the Sanctum Sanctorum for drinking, smoking and for making dance girls perform. He used the premises as a stable for his horses. Two Sikhs, Mehtab Singh and Sukha Singh, then at Jaipur (Rajasthan), took a solemn vow that they will cut off his head and bring back for all to see, and if they failed in their mission, they will not return alive.

In August 1740, the brave Sikhs entered the Golden Temple, disguised as Mohammdans, wanting to pay revenue. On meeting Rangarh, they beheaded him, and carried away his head to Jaipur, as promised.

Zakriya Khan died in 1745. He was unable to urinate and was in extreme pain. Near his end, he was full of regret and remorse for having killed thousands of innocent Sikhs. After Zakriya, merciless killing of Sikhs continued by Mir Mannu, who took over as Governor of Punjab in April 1748.

Despite the atrocities, Sikhs continued their military preparations. In March 1748, Sikhs emerged from their hideouts, led By Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, recaptured the Golden Temple, and drove away the Afghans, killing Salabat Khan, their commander. The Sarovar was cleaned; the sanctity of the shrine was restored. A large gathering of Sikhs declared the Khalsa a state with Jassa Singh Ahluwalia as the head. Nadir Shah died in the year 1747. He became mad, got the eyes of his son gouged out in a fit of rage. He was assassinated by his soldiers. Ahmad Shah Abdali declared himself as the successor to Nadir Shah and invaded India in 1748.

In 1752, the Mughal Emperor, under pressure from Abdali, declared Punjab to be a province of Afghanistan. Sikhs refused to accept this version. Instead, they proclaimed sovereignty over the entire state of Punjab. Abdali was enraged over the defiant stand of the Sikhs. To punish them, he did a repeat of Zakriya, ordered his army to demolish Harmandar Sahib, defiling the sacred Sarovar, and committed genocide against the Sikhs. His orders were obeyed.

Unable to bear the sacrilege, a handful of Sikhs, under the leadership of Baba Deep Singh, who was baptised by Tenth Guru, decided to avenge this dishonour. Unmindful of certain death and not caring for the great disparity in their strength, the Sikhs pounced on Afghan army like tigers. Carnage followed. Every Sikh was martyred, fighting with utmost courage. Though Baba Deep Singh was mortally wounded, he continued fighting through the rank and file of Afghans till he reached and fell on the edge of the Sarovar.`A0All heads bow at the place on the Parkarma, where he breathed last. He was decidedly victorious.

Within a year of Abdali’s attack, the Sikhs captured Lahore, killing a large number of Afghan soldiers. The captured were brought to Amritsar and made to clean the Sarovar, which they had defiled. In 1762 Abdali came to India (his sixth invasion) to solely punish the Sikhs. He surprised the Sikhs at village Kup, near Malerkotla, with a very large force. The Sikhs were outnumbered and caught unawares, while moving their families to safe areas in the Malwa belt. Abdali now turned his attention to Harmandar Sahib. To catch the large numbers of Sikhs, he chose a day close to Baisakhi, April 10, 1762. Fierce fighting took place between unequal numbers. The Sikhs fought recklessly. Abdali blew all the structure with gunpowder. Abdali died in 1773. The last and the seventh time the shrine was extensively damaged was during Operation Bluestar in June 1984.



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