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History in the Ardas

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(Pujio) Bhai Sahib Norang Singh Ji doing Ardas

The word Ardās is a reference to the Sikh prayer that is a done before performing or after undertaking any significant task; after reciting the daily Banis (prayers); or completion of a service like the Paath, kirtan (hymn-singing) program or any other religious program. In Sikhism, these prayers are also said before and after eating. The prayer is a plea to God to support and help the devotee with whatever he or she is about to undertake or has done.

The Ardas is often adorned with various passages from the Guru Granth Sahib. Here we shall give the basic structure. The ardas is divided into three distinct section each one of which deals with a distinct aspect of the ardas.

The recitation of ardas commences with the opening stanza of Var Sri Bhagauti Ji written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (The Var Sri Bhagauti Ji is contained with the Dasam Granth). This smoothly written ode begins by going through the order of meditation by placing Waheguru foremost above all else, and then systematically referring to each of the other Gurus in turn entreating them for aid and protection.

The first section: This section recalls the 11 Gurus of the Sikhs and asks for their wisdom and protection.

The second portion of ardas discusses the sacrifices made by various Sikhs throughout history. The sacrifices made by these noble individuals range from sacrificing children to being placed onto rotating wheels of torture.

Let us remember all those Sikh men and women who, for the sake of the Dharma, and the religious and spiritual freedom of all people, gave their heads, and allowed themselves to be cut apart, limb by limb, joint by joint; who had their scalps torn from their heads; who were stretched and broken upon the wheels of torture; who were beaten and sawn apart, but never gave up their faith, and their determination to live according to Sikh rehat, with all their hair to their last breath'. Let us always remember those Gursikhs who, in the service of our holy Gurdwaras, in the spirit of non-violence allowed themselves to be brutally beaten, burnt and boiled alive, and yet still uttered no words of protest, but instead, placed their trust, and their lives, in the Hands of God, in sweet surrender to His Will. Remembering their sacrifice and their glorious victory…

Through the course of ardas, there are many references made to historical events that helped to shape and strengthen the Sikhs as a people.

Panj Pyare

The first historical reference made by ardas is to the panj pyare or Five Beloved Ones. These five men constituted the beginning of what was to become the Khalsa. At the baisakhi festival on April 13, 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji sat before a huge assembly of Sikhs dressed completely in saffron and blue, and delivered one of the most rousing and spiritual speeches in Sikh history. In this speech, the Guru instituted one of the most predominant slogans in the Sikh religion, Bole So Nihal: Sat Sri Akal, and began to discuss the need for action in order to strengthen the Sikh community and rise against the Moghuls.

At the conclusion of his speech, the Guru stared out onto the crowd, and asked for the ultimate sacrifice--any member of the Sangat who was willing to lay down their life for their beliefs. Through the absolute silence of the crowd, one man, Bhai Daya Ram, arose and declared his devotion to both Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Sikhism. The Guru then took him into a separate tent, next blood was seen flowing at the tent's bottom, the Guru returned, sword dripping with blood and asked for more sacrifices. Four more men Bhai Dharam Das, Bhai Sahib Chand, Bhai Himmat Chand, and Bhai Mokham Chand professed their piety, and met the same fate as Bhai Daya Ram. Shocked, the Sikhs in the crowd sat in silence, then Guru Gobind Singh Ji lead the five brave men from the tent and presented them to the sangat, (completely unharmed and now dressed entirely in the saffron and blue of the Guru), as the 'Panj Pyare' the 'Five Beloved'. Amazed, the Sikhs shouted a chorus of the new slogan, Bole so Nihal and were met with a resounding Sat Sri Akal.

The following day, the Guru proceeded to give the five beloved ones amrit, and induct them into the new following of Sikhs or the Khalsa.

the Four Sahibzada

The four sons or "chaar sahibjade" referred to in the same line of ardas as the panj pyare are the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who were martyred at such early ages by the mughals. After the protracted siege of Anandpur, during the flight from the city, the Guru's two youngest sons and their grandmother, were separated, while crossing the River Sarsa, from Guru Gobind Singh Ji. They sought refuge nearby with their former Bhramin cook Gangu in his home village. The old Hindu saying -'Guests are to be treated like a God', apparently slipped Gangu's memory, as the three weary travelers were turned in to the local Mughal athorities and were soon carted off to Sirhind where Wazir Khan, angered by the escape of Guru Gobind Singh at Chamkaur, offered great Earthly rewards to the two young boys if only they would become Muslims. When the young children refused they were given the option to convert or face death.

The boys, barely six and eight years of age, bravely retorted that they would not abandon their faith even under the threat of death; they would rather follow in the footsteps of Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur. Furious, the emperor ordered the two young boys be bricked into a wall alive. From the first brick to the last, the boys neither cringed nor smiled, but remained completely devoid of all emotion, secure in the fact that they had made the correct choice. But history tells us that even being walled in could not conquer the Kardi Kala or spirit of the two youngest Princes, for the wall collasped and the Shahizadas were Martyred as were their grandfather at the hands of a Mughal Executioner. Hearing of their deaths their Grandmother died as well.

The Guru’s two older sons died in the Battle at Chamkaur fighting for their beliefs in Sikhism. Each had asked their father's permission to leave the temporary safety of the Garhi and lead a few Sikhs out to face certain death against overwhelming odds. So secure was Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his beliefs and position, that he willingly gave them his permission, to make the ultimate sacrifice for the Khalsa, even though they were his own children.

With his own eyes he witnessed their bravery, later upon being told of the heinous acts at Sirhind, the Guru responded, "I have sacrificed four sons for the survival of the thousands of my sons who are still alive" (Singh, Harban). This quote is the essence of the Guru’s feelings toward his Khalsa. He placed nothing above it, including the lives of his own children for he considered all his Sikhs to be his children.

Did not abandon their faith

An undeniable pattern of martyrdom can be traced as one tracks the path of Sikhs throughout history. The Sikhs "did not abandon their Sikh faith; [they] kept their Sikh Religion and saved their long hair until their last breath" (Ardas) in an attempt to keep their heads unshorn as well as maintain their allegiance to the Gurus and Sikhism. This exemplifies the ways in which Sikhs have repeatedly chosen to die for those beliefs that they have chosen to base their lives on. Ardas mentions forty of these martyrs within its context, the first of which is Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji was tortured for five long days at Lahore when he refused to convert to Islam. He was brought to Lahore based on the false accusations that he had compiled hurtful information about both Hinduism and Islam. The Guru allowed himself to be jailed, but when faced with the option of death or Islam; he chose death. After refusing to convert, the Mughals placed him on a red, hot iron sheet, poured burning sand on him, and dipped him into boiling water. The crowd witnessing these horrific sites reported afterward that not once did the Guru appear to regret his decision, but rather appeared to be at peace with himself and Waheguru through the entire ordeal. Many of the onlookers reported feeling almost perturbed at the strange calm that overcame Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji, unfortunately, was not the only Guru who chose to lay down his life for his beliefs. Guru Tegh Bahadur and his three followers Bhai Dyal Das, Bhai Mati Das, and Bhai Sati Das were also made to perform the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of the Mugals. Guru Tegh Bahadur decided of his own free will to make himself a martyr for the entire population fo India that was being forciblly converted to Islam by the Mughals. In order to show other religions and groups of people that the Sikhs were serious and sincere about their religion, Guru Tegh Bahadur offered himself as the sacrificial lamb that would show the extent of the Sikh’s feelings. Upon making this decision, Guru Tegh Bahadur and his three closest followers set off on their quest. Once they reached Delhi, the Emperor Aurungzeb gave them the option of switching to the Muslim religion, but the Guru and his three followers defied the emperor and responded by saying that their "religion was as good as Islam" (Gupta, Hari Ram).

In order to teach the Guru as well as other non-converts a lesson, Aurungzeb chose to lock the Guru up in an iron cage and torture his three followers before his eyes. Each of these three tortures is specifically mentioned within the text of ardas -- "remember all those Sikh men and women who…allowed themselves to be cut up limb for limb…sawn apart…burnt and boiled alive, and yet still uttered no words of protest" (Singh, Inder Mohan). First, Aurungzeb sawed Bhai Mati Das from head to loins; he then proceeded to tie Bhai Dyal Das up with an iron chain and put him into a cauldron of boiling oil where he was roasted alive into a block of charcoal. Finally, Bhai Sati Das was hacked to pieces limb by limb. After witnessing the above horrors, Guru Tegh Bahadur had yet to bat an eye. Enraged, the emperor ordered his execution by beheading. Throughout it all, the Guru, Bhai Sati Das, Bhia Mati Das, and Bhai Dyal Das’ resolve remained as strong as ever, and they died as they lived--Sikhs.

Bhai Taru Singh

Bhai Taru Singh was yet another Sikh who had the grit to stick by his beliefs, and ended his life as another Sikh martyr. Bhai Taru Singh was a very influential Sikh, and Governor Zakr Kahn felt that it would be very good for his campaign if he could obtain Bhai Taru Singh’s conversion to Islam. When asked to cut his hair, Bhai Taru Singh simply replied that he would keep his faith with his hair, and there was no need asking again. In response to this statement, Bhai Taru Singh was placed on a rotating wheel of torture. Periodically, he would be pulled off and asked to reconsider and each time Bhai Taru Singh met the Mughals’ request with silence. Finally, the executioner pulled Bhai Taru Singh off of the wheel of torture, and proceeded to scalp him. He was then thrown into a ditch where he was left for dead, but Bhai Taru Singh managed to hold on to life until the Governor mysteriously died two days later. The strength with which Bhai Taru Singh managed to hold onto his beliefs is characteristic of the martyred Sikhs mentioned in ardas.

Ardas also refers to two men who were tortured by being "tied and rotated on the wheels [of torture] and broken into pieces (Ardas). Bhai Subej Singh was one of the Sikhs that accompanied Bhai Taru Singh to Lahore. After Bhai Taru Singh was tortured and killed by the Muslims, Bhai Subej Singh remained in custody, and was constantly asked to change his beliefs to those of Islam. Upon his captivity, a Muslim man asked his son, Bhai Shahbhaz Singh to abandon his Sikh religion, become a Muslim, and marry his daughter. Bhai Shahbhaz Singh refused and was taken to Lahore to be placed in jail alongside his father. There the two men were placed on two rotating wheels facing one another and were tortured. The entire time they were tortured, they were given the opportunity to end all the torture by accepting Islam, but neither man succumbed to this option. They stood steadfastly beside their beliefs, secure in their position with Waheguru, while the Mughals attempted to end their devotion by beheading them.

Ultimate Sacrifice by Sikh Women

Sikh men were not the only members of the Sikh community who were tormented by the Mughals. Sikh women who refused to change their beliefs were also tortured at the hands of Meer Mannu, a mughal leader in 1748 AD in the city of Lahore. They were rounded up like cattle during the purges and placed into jails where they were forced to live under atrocious conditions. While living among the dirt and debris, each woman was expected to grind 60kg of flour daily regardless of their age and physical ability. While performing this hard labor, the women were faced with the option of choosing between Sikhism and Islam fully aware of the fact that if they refused to choose Islam, their children would be murdered before their very eyes. As harsh as this punishment was, none of the women would succumb to this temptation, and they were forced to watch their children being mutilated and barbarically murdered and the bodies returned to them. The children were cut into pieces and made into garlands to place around the mothers’ necks. In no way could the devotion of a mother be tested to any other extreme, and yet the entire group of women remained steadfast in their beliefs and unwaveringly remained with the Gurus and Sikhism.

Bhai Mani Singh

The Mughals often staged different situations in order to provide themselves with the opportunity to persecute the Sikhs. One of these instances occurred with Bhai Mani Singh during the time of Baisakhi. Bhai Mani Singh yearned to organize a Baisakhi festival, and was given permission by the mughal leader of that time provided he pay 5,000 rupees in taxes for the celebration. Bhai Mani Singh discovered that the mughal army planned to ambush the Baisakhi celebration and attempt to forcefully convert all the Sikhs that were present to Islam. In an effort to save the Sikhs from this fate, Bhai Mani Singh sent warnings out to prevent them from attending the celebration; due to this fact, Bhai Mani Singh did not raise enough money to pay the Mughal taxes. The Mughal leader changed his plan and decided to use Bhai Mani Singh as an example for the remainder of the Sikh community. This courageous Sikh martyr was arrested by the Mughals, and after refusing to convert to Islam, cut joint by joint and allowed to bleed to death. This reprehensible act was referred to specifically within ardas; "brave Sikh men…who sacrificed their heads but did not surrender their Sikh Religion; Who got themselves cut to pieces from each of the joints of the body" (Ardas).

Bhai Deep Singh

Baba Deep Singh attained martyrdom during his attacks on Abdali, the leader of a band of looters from Afghanistan, during the mid 1700s. The Afghanistan bandits looted Punjab, and the Sikhs in turn freed all of the women and children that the Afghanistan thieves took to place in their harems and use as slaves. Angry, Abdali ordered his son, the Governor of Lahore, to kill all the Sikhs. Baba Deep Singh Ji organized an army of 500 and marched on Amritsar. As the Sikhs marched, their army continued to grow until it reached 5,000. While marching in November 1757, the Sikhs were assaulted by a mughal army 20,000 strong during which Baba Deep Singh Ji was injured in the neck. Due to his determination to lead his Sikhs to the Harimander Sahib, Baba Deep Singh Ji continued onwards holding his head up with one hand and fighting with the other. This courageousness is what has lead Baba Deep Singh to be revered as a martyr in the Sikh community.

Banda Singh Bahadur

After Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s death, Banda Singh Bahadur, appointed Jathedar of the Sikhs to drive the foreign invaders out of India. Banda Singh assembled an army of Sikhs, which then trekked through India, taking over villages that had in any way wronged either Hindus or Sikhs. Any loot that the army confiscated from the villages, they then proceeded to allot to anyone who needed it. Banda Singh managed to kill Wazir Khan, and even destroryed the Zimidar tax system of the Mughals. Later he was then forced to go into hiding living the next few years of his life in hiding amid the mountains of India until the fateful day when starved to weakness by a protracted seige he and his band of Sikhs were caught by the mughals. He and his Sikh army were tortured and beheaded; the mughal army carried the Sikh heads around on spikes, long hair flowing behind them, as a lesson to all other Sikhs.

Banda Singh was taken to the city where he was forced to witness his son’s murder and dismemberment. They even attempted to feed parts of his son's body to the Jathedar. After this heinous act, the mughals furthered their torture by poking both of Banda Singh’s eyes out, chopping off his hands and feet, tearing off his flesh with red hot pincers, and beheading him. Such extreme forms of torture represent the types of acts that ardas’ words prevent the Sikh people from forgetting.

Five Takhats

The five seats of the Sikh religion referred to in ardas are known in gurmukhi as the Akal Takhat, and are located in Amritsar, Patna, Anandpur, Nanded, and Talwandi Sabo. Guru Hargobind established the Akal Takhat or centers of all Sikh activity as he attempted to transform the Sikh people from saints to saint-soldiers to serve as a place to conduct all secular affairs of the community. The word Akal implies timelessness, whereas takhat refers to a royal throne or chair of state. The principal and oldest Akal Takhat is found in Amritsar, which is similar to the state capital. The Akal Takhat offers both guidance and clarification to the Sikh community in the form of hukamnamas, edicts, and writs; punishment for those who violate the rehit mariyada; and praise for those Sikhs who have done much for the community. The first of these hukamnamas from the Akal Takhat was issued by Guru Hargobind entreating the Sikh people to give gifts of weapons and horses in order to strengthen the army. From this point onward in Sikh history, the Akal Takhat serves the Sikh people as a source of direction in their campaigns as well as their everyday lives.

See also

External Links



  • Singh, Baba Surain & Singh, Baba Naranjan (2004). The Miracle of Ardaas. Mighty Minds Publishing Pte Ltd. ISBN 9812500804. - To obtain a free copy of this book click: Sikhnation
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