A tale of the considerate Khalsa saint-soldier

The Sacred Sword: The Legend of Guru Gobind Singh by Hindol Sen Gupta is a fictionalised account of the life and the times of the tenth and last living Guru of Sikh faith – Guru Gobind Singh.

This book divided into 11 chapters with the family tree of the Sikh Guru tries to capture the emotions, personality, events, life history and various shades of the 10th Sikh Guru – from being a great leader to spiritual leader to an extraordinary archer, a poet and a martyr.

Conveying the true spirit of martyrdom which is an integral part of the history of Sikhism, this book in its first chapter describes the ultimate sacrifice of the ninth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur at the Chandni Chowk in Delhi. Guru Tegh Bahadur had vowed to protect the Kashmiri pundits who had approached him when the Mughal King Aurangzeb began desecrating and demolishing a number of temples in Kashmir and forced the pundits to convert to Islam. It details the whole episode of how the ninth Guru was beheaded on the instruction of Aurangzeb. This historical event marked the change in Guru Gobind Singh’s life who was then only nine years old and was brought the severed head of his father at his village.

In the following chapters ‘The Saint Soldier’, ‘The Sacred Sword’, ‘The boy who never cried’, ‘The Sparrow and the hawk’, ‘The Pure’ Sen Gupta has wonderfully woven a story about treachery as well as trust, giving insights upon almost all major events of Guru Gobind Singh’s life. From martyrdom of his father and four sons to the famous battle of Bhangani, the birth of Khalsa sect, Sikh traditional drum Ranjit Nagara to the installation of Guru Grant Sahib as the eternal Guru and so on.

The philosophy of Sikhism has been introduced in simple language for readers especially who have little knowledge about this religion and who are not familiar with the life of Guru Gobind Singh.

Another important aspect of the book is the portrayal of Guru Gobind Singh and Aurangzeb not as ‘staunch enemies’ but as believers of opposite ideologies and attitude. While Aurangzeb was a Puritan who wanted to convert whole of India to Islam by hook or crook, Guru Gobind Singh was a ‘pure’ who believed in sacrifice to protect other religions as well. Through Khalsa, he institutionalized the principle of equality in Sikhism regardless of one’s caste or gender. It’s interesting to read how a nine-year-old boy turned into a ‘saint soldier’ and laid the foundation of Khalsa tradition.

This book also has answers to all the spiritual and mundane questions that generally come to one’s mind about the cultural history of Sikh religion – for e.g. the reason behind Sikhs not shaving their beard or cutting their hair. And a series of promises that Guru Gobind Singh demanded from the men along with a description of the five K’s and the introduction of the Panj Pyare (the first Khalsa in the Sikh tradition).

The English version of Zafarnama (the spiritual victory letter sent by Guru Gobind Singh to Aurangzeb after the Battle of Chamkaur in 1705), with the right mix of Gurbani, is an added attraction for the readers. However, the dull depiction of war scenes in some of the chapters obstruct the reader’s flow. Nevertheless, the book beautifully presents the various aspects of Guru’s life and some important people – Mata Gujri (his mother), Banda Bahadur Singh, Tansen and many more. All in all, it’s a good read for those interested in familiarising themselves with Sikhism and its glorious history.

Publisher- Penguin India
Pages – 230
Price – 350