Long before the British built the Gateway to India there was another Gateway to India. It was The Khyber Pass.
As early as 326 B.C. Alexander the Great came down The Khyber. Then came Ghori, Gazni, Nadir Shah, Khiljee, Durrani. They all came down the Khyber. They did not come to do Battle. They came to loot, plunder and rape.
There was no one to stop them. I was reading one of Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes in which he says that it is the duty of every Hindu to resist foreign invasion, no matter for what purpose it may be undertaken. He wrote this sometime in the 1940’s. Sadly, this advice was centuries too late. So there was no one to stop the invaders.
It is important to know that the Hindus of that time were of very different bent of mind.
One of the Macedonians accompanying Alexander wrote, “She (India) let the legions thunder pass and plunged into thought again!”
This is what the ancient Indians were good at. Thinking! Sadly, not so today.
It was a remarkable thought that gave the world Zero. Einstein was awed by this discovery and said there could have been no mathematics without Zero.
Another explanation is of what we know as the Pythagoras Theorem which the Greeks had expounded in 450 B.C. This is mentioned in the Baudh vama Sulba stura in 800 B.C. in the ancient Hindu Texts, 350 years ahead of the Greeks!
Back to the Khyber. The mountain range in which the Khyber Pass is located is known as the Hindu Khush, which means the Killer of Hindus!
No one went up the Khyber! It was one-way traffic!
In May 1675, a group of Kashmiri Brahmins approached the Sikh Guru Tegh Bhadur to stop the slaughter and forced conversions of Hindus to Islam. If the Emperor could convince Guru Sahib to become a Muslim, then the Brahmins will follow.
Guru Tegh Bhadur left for Agra with his followers, Bhayee Mati Das, Bhayee Sati Das and Bhayee Dyala who was all of 15 years of age.
Before leaving Anandpur Sahib, Guru Sahib nominated his nine-year-old son, Gobind Rai as his successor.
All his followers knew that Guru Sahib would never accept Islam and as such they would be killed. Yet they followed Him faithfully and fearlessly.
Guru Sahib was forced to witness these horrifying and gruesome executions.
Bhayee Mati Dass was sawed in half while alive. Bhayee Dyala, the youngster was boiled to death, Bhayee Sati Das was set on fire and roasted alive!
Guru Tegh Bhadur was beheaded halal style. A slow and extremely painful death. But he did not relent. He sacrificed Himself and His followers to save the Kashmiri Brahmins.
This was on the 24th of November, 1675.
His severed head was smuggled back to Anandpur Sahib where his nine-year-old son, Gobind Rai, cremated it.
Guru Tegh Bahadur and his three companions are the most heroic and unmatched example of Satyagrahis and martyrs the world has ever been witness to.
Guru Gobind Singh’s father was martyred. His four sons were also martyred by the Mughals. Five of his immediate family were martyrs. This is unheard of in history.
Their entire protest was peaceful and it was to save the Hindus.
Today these very same people are being called anti-national.
I must mention that the title that the Guru Sahib has was ‘Hind di Chaadar’, the Shield of Hindustan!
Young Gobind Rai took on the mantle of his Father and became Guru Gobind.
As Guru Gobind was aware of all these atrocities he realized that he had to fight fire with fire! He wrote to Emperor Aurangzeb a missive in Persian and in poetry form. It is referred to as the Zafarnama. So far all the opposition from the Sikh Gurus had been peaceful. Now he declared, it was time for the dove to hunt the hawk!
Guru Gobind took to arms. He created the Khalsa at a solemn ceremony in 1699 at Anandpur Sahib. He transformed the simple Farmer Folk of Punjab into a family of Soldier Saints, The Khalsa Panth. The warrior was born!
Most important, as of that day every Sikh would carry the name Singh, meaning Lion.
Not one Singh has had any trouble living up to that and its reputation!
From Gobind Rai to Guru Gobind and finally Guru Gobind Singh, the tribe has increased, flourished, prospered and made a major contribution to humanity.
On one occasion Nadir Shah was on his way back to Persia. His kafla was attacked by the Sikhs who had become masters of the art of hit and run warfare. They were always a small band of seasoned horsemen and well-armed. They would attack the armies of the invaders which outnumbered the Sikhs, and as quickly as they had appeared they would disappear.
Nadir Shah was enraged that anybody would have the audacity to attack him. He asked one of his Generals, who are these people and where do they live?
“Their saddle is their home and once a year they come to Amritsar to bathe in the Holy Sarovar and pray to their God!”
“Watch out for these people”, was the advice that an exasperated Nadir Shah gave to his General.
With their ‘guerre la’ tactics they were unbeatable. With their appearance, flowing beards, dark blue turbans, charging on their well-trained horses they struck terror into the Islamic invaders.
It is entirely possible that they were the world’s first terrorists! They terrorised the invaders, they terrorised the Muslim Governor of Lahore who offered a reward for producing a severed head with long hair and full beard.
The Mughals enthroned in Delhi also lived in terror of the Sikhs. So did the British. The British were thankful that the river Satluj was a natural boundary between the Kingdom of The Sikhs and The British Raj.
For hundreds of years invaders came down the Khyber and took the loot back home through the Khyber. This happened continuously and repeatedly. To stop the invaders who plundered India, it was the Sikhs who once again came to the rescue of Hindustan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh saw that the invaders had all used The Khyber Pass. The ablest General that The Maharaja had was Hari Singh Nalwa. He ordered Hari Singh to stop any further invasions into Hindustan. Hari Singh did just that. He moved up to Peshawar and built the famous Jamrud and Shagai Forts. He then built a series of smaller Forts all the way up to The Khyber.
He actually opened up the way to Kabul! Ranjit Singh had organized The Sikh Misls into a unified State. It was called the Kingdom of the Sikhs. In 1801 he proclaimed himself as Maharaja of The Kingdom. Since Sikhism preaches that all men are equal, the Maharaja never wore a crown.
Ranjit Singh came to be known as the Sher-e-Punjab, meaning The Lion of Punjab. He was just that.
He turned the tables on the invaders who had come down the Khyber Pass.
After having consolidated his territories in the plains, on one occasion Maharaja Ranjit Singh decided to spend the summer in Kabul. At 2.000 metres above sea level, Kabul has a salubrious climate.
Lahore boils in the summer heat.
To avoid a confrontation with the Maharaja, the Afghan King Zaman Shah conferred on Ranjit Singh, the title of ‘The Governor of The City of Kabul’!
It was also a time for the Maharaja to make amends for the damage and the havoc that the Islamic invaders had inflicted on India.
On one occasion, Mahmud of Ghazni had taken the Silver Doors that graced the Som Nath Temple. They were in Afghanistan and had been used on the doors of the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni.
For the first time in history, and the only time that the loot taken from the Som Nath Temple was brought back to India!
Maharaja Ranjit Singh did that!
The magnanimous Maharaja offered them to the Pandits at the Som Nath Temple.
They refused to accept the doors saying that the infidels had looked upon them! These doors are now in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
This was an amazing piece of bravery and the person who helped the Sikh Maharaja succeed was General Hari Singh Nalwa.
Who was Hari Singh Nalwa?
Hari Singh wanted to be a warrior. He joined the Khalsa Fauj at the age of 13. At age 17 he killed a tiger in hand-to-hand combat armed only with a Kirpan.
On hearing of this exceptional feat of bravery, the Maharaja allowed him to go into Battle the next year.
Hari Singh took part in 22 Battles in his lifetime. He won all 22!
In addition to the Forts that the Sikhs built, they also built Gurudwaras. The Khalsa remains loyal to his Gurus. The Forts and Gurudwaras still exist till today. The Forts stand rock steady, maintained by the Pakistan army. The Gurudwaras are in shambles.
One of the forts he built, The Shagai Fort (see photograph) today is the headquarters of the Khyber Rifles. I have a photograph of it. I could have got shot and killed on the spot. A Sardar complete with beard and turban, photographing a Pakistani Military installation!
But foolishness and bravado have their own peculiar adrenalin pumping ability!
Even to this day Hari Singh’s name is well known in what was the North West Frontier Province and today’s Pakhtunkhwa.
Legend has it that even today Mothers tell their naughty children in Pushto “CHUP SHA, HARI SINGH RAGHLAY”, MEANING STAY QUIET, HARI SINGH IS COMING!
The contribution that the Sikhs made to defend the Hindu Dharam was much appreciated. To repay the Sikhs for their courage, fortitude and determination the Hindus decided that the first born male in the family would be brought up as a Sikh.
Here is a quote that impresses the importance of the Farmer.
Once in your life you need a Doctor, a Lawyer, a Policeman or a Preacher, but three times a day you need the Farmer!
Here is another quote that highlights the importance of the Farmer. “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much Dignity in tilling a Field as in writing a Poem”
Booker T Washington.
In closing, I also quote from an Editorial in The Tribune dated 26th of March 1931.
“Never was a Government confronted by a situation in which the path of justice was more clearly or more indisputably also the path of self-interest. Never did a Government fail more signally to follow the right path”.
This could be advice written for today’s government.