Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji
Baba Deep Singh ji Shahid is one of most honoured martyrs in Sikh history. He was the founder of the Shahid Misl (group) and as well as of the Damdami Taksal (Damdama school of learning). Tall and strong he was an extremely brave Sikh. A bold and fearless saint-soldier he was ever ready to risk his life for the Panth. He spent most of his life as a custodian of the Panth. Not only was he a brave and fearless soldier but a very intelligent scholar who had mastered several languages.
Baba Ji was born in January, 1682. He was the son of Bhai Bhagata Ji and Mai Jeoni Ji, a Sikh couple living in Pahuvind, Amritsar. Baba Ji’s parents were hard working Sikh farmers. He was named Deepa (light). From about 12 years of age, he grew up around the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Anandpur Sahib. He learned Gurmukhi (Punjabi script) and several other languages from Bhai Mani Singh and other Sikh scholars. It was here that he also learned the art of horsemanship, hunting and the use of the bow and other weapons. At the age of eighteen, he received Amrit from the Panj Pyare at Anandpur Sahib on Vaisakhi day and took an oath to serve as one of Waheguru’s warriors (Akal Purakh dee fauj). With his new name, Deep Singh also learned that Sikhs are to always help the weak and needy, and to fight for truth and justice.
Baba Deep Singh Ji had been summoned to Damdama Sahib to work with Bhai Mani Singh Ji to prepare the final text of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh Ji recited the entire Granth Sahib to them while they wrote the text. On its completion, Baba Deep Singh Ji hand wrote five more copies of the Holy Scriptures. Four copies were sent to Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Sri Takht Patna Sahib, Sri Takht Hazur Sahib, and Sri Takht Anandpur Sahib. Another copy was prepared by Baba Deep Singh Ji in Arabic script and sent to the Middle East. In 1707, Baba Deep Singh Ji joined Banda Singh Bahadur to fight for the freedom of Punjab. They fought together in the battle at Sirhind–the city in which Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s younger sons had been killed. During the battle, Baba Deep Singh Ji beheaded Wazir Khan. Later, when the Sikh forces were reorganised into twelve misls (groups), Baba Deep Singh Ji was appointed in charge of the Shaheedi division. As the leader of the Shaheedi misl, he achieved numerous victories for the Sikhs.
In 1755, Ahmad Shah Abdali, the emperor of Afghanistan, attacked India for the fifth time. After looting many Indian cities including Delhi, he brought back with him gold, jewellery, and thousands of captured young women. When Baba Deep Singh Ji learned about this atrocity, he took a group of Sikhs and ambushed Ahmad Shah’s forces. Baba Deep Singh Ji and his men freed much of Ahmad Shah’s stolen goods and liberated the prisoners, returning them to their homes.Ahmad Shah Abdali was able to escape to Lahore. To take revenge from Sikhs, he appointed his son, Tamur Shah, as the governor of Lahore, and made Jahan Khan his general. In 1757, Jahan Khan proceeded to Amritsar with heavy artillery. Many Sikhs died trying to defend Sri Harimander Sahib but unfortunately the gurdwara and its surrounding buildings were demolished and the sarovar was filled with dirt and debris. Sri Harimander Sahib was then closed to all Sikhs. At this time, Baba Deep Singh Ji was at Damdama Sahib. When he learned about this disturbing news, he immediately declared his intention of expelling the Afghans and rebuilding the gurdwara. He took a vow not to come back alive without fulfilling this mission.
Although Baba Deep Singh Ji was seventy-five years old, he still had the strength of a young warrior. He gathered a large group of Sikhs and advanced towards Sir Harimander Sahib. Baba Deep Singh Ji’s army intercepted Jahan Khan’s forces near the village of Goharwal, about five miles from Amritsar. At this point, there was a clash between both sides. Baba Deep Singh Ji fought with his 18-ser khanda (weighing about 32 lbs.). During the clash, one of the Mogul commanders, Jamal Khan, attacked Baba Deep Singh Ji. As they fought, both men swung their weapons with great force, leaving both of their heads separated from their bodies. After seeing this scene, a young Sikh warrior called out to Baba Ji, reminding him of his vow to reach Sri Harimander Sahib. Upon hearing this, Baba Deep Singh Ji immediately stood up, holding his head on his left palm while holding his khanda upright in his right hand. He then continued fighting and moving towards Sri Harimander Sahib. Upon seeing the sight of Baba Deep Singh Ji, most of the men in the Mogul army fled away in terror. Baba Deep Singh Ji was able to continue fighting and reached Sri Harimander Sahib. He bowed his head at the prikarma (rectangular walkway) of Sri Harimander Sahib and lay there as a martyr. Baba Deep Singh Ji’s shaheedi incited the Sikhs to continue to fight against Mogul oppression for many years. Even today, his life serves as an example for all Sikhs on how to live and die with dignity.