Vaisakhi Greetings to All !
Every Indian must celebrate the event which changed their fortunes by restoring religious freedom in India. The story of Vaisakhi has its origin well before 13th April 1699. It began with the martyrdom of the ninth Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur, who was publicly beheaded by Aurangzeb, the then Mughal ruler, for upholding the religious freedom of Kashmiri Pundits in India.
Regrettably, Aurangzeb had become overzealous with his blend of religion and wanted to force everyone to convert to his faith or face dire consequences. Guru Tegh Bahadur stood up for the Hindu Pundits who were threatened with conversion or face death. The great Guru challenged the Emperor to convert him first before the Hindu Pundits. As Guru Ji refused the Emperor's demands, he was publically beheaded for his act of defiance, and the Guru's martyrdom unleashed anger amongst his followers. They did not rest until they brought an end to the tyrannical Mughal rule in India. A unique example in the history of humanity when a faith leader gives up his life to uphold another community's religious rights. The Sikh Gurus were the first to champion religious freedom in the world before anyone else.
In 1699 on Vaisakhi day, the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, son of the martyred 9th Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadur, established the brotherhood of Khalsa to fight against the religious oppression and tyranny of Emperor Aurungzeb.
The Emperor wanted to destroy India's diversity, but according to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, diversity must be accepted, respected, and, if need be, defended. Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his followers defended India's diversity as we see it today by paying the supreme sacrifices.
It is worth remembering that it was the Sikhs who stopped the relentless invasions of India via the Khyber Pass and saved the ancient Indian civilisation as we see it today. These barbaric invasions went on for centuries and resulted in looting, raping and the massacre of innocent Indians.
It is worth remembering that Sikhs took up arms not to oppress or suppress anyone but to liberate those who were being persecuted and oppressed in the name of their religion. They did not seek to conquer anyone. As a matter of fact, Sikhs do not convert anyone with coercion or by the false inducement of a place in a "Heaven". Instead, they respect every religion of the world.
The Brotherhood of the Khalsa defeated the Moguls and helped create the first secular Kingdom in India under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was also the Gurus followers like Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha and Udham Singh who sacrificed their lives to uphold Mother India's honour.
84,000 Sikh soldiers sacrificed their lives, and 93000 were injured during the two Great Wars defending world freedom which is more than any other community in comparison to its numbers. The Sikh Regiment is one of the highest decorated regiments in the Indian Army. As a matter of fact, it was also the most decorated regiment in the entire British Empire.
Even after India's independence, Sikhs continue to fight for the defence and integrity of India. It is on record that Sikhs made and are still making more sacrifices for India than any other community compared to their numbers. Sikhs are less than 2% of India's population, yet punch above their weight many times over in every field for India. 59,000 Sikh Gurudwaras worldwide provide over 6 million meals daily to anyone who comes through their doors regardless of their religion, race, gender or colour, simply because Sikhs believe in the Universal Brotherhood of Mankind. The greatest tenant of Sikhism is service to humanity regardless. During the Covid pandemic, Sikhs were praised by everyone in the world for their philanthropic work in reaching out to the weak and vulnerable in society.
More importantly, before Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Indians used to die for India, and after Guru Gobind Singh Ji, they now fight to defend India. I shudder to think what would have been our future and that of humanity without the Brotherhood of the Khalsa. Sikhs are the epitome of self-sacrifice for others. Next time you see a Sardarjee, please give a thought as to why he decided to wear a beard and a turban for India and humanity.
Lord Rami Ranger CBE