PREFACE TO ZAFARNAMA & FATEHNAMA
Guru Gobind Singh Ji had spent about 33 years of his life at Anandpur
Sahib. Right from his adolescent years till he left the place in 1704,
the Hill Rajas were constantly harassing him. They resented his religious
and social reforms and could not relish his leveling of all castes and
raising of Shudras to a position of equality with the Brahmins and Kashatriyas.
Their aim was to dislodge him from Anandpur Sahib. The harassment, which
started with pin pricks, culminated in open hostilities beginning with
the battle of Bhangani in 1689 which resulted in total rout of the Hill
Rajas. In every subsequent battle, the Sikhs inflicted crushing defeat
on their combined forces. Having miserably failed in their nefarious
aim, Raja Ajmer Chand of Kehlur and his cohorts from the area submitted
a petition to Aurangzeb representing Guru Gobind Singh as a mortal foe
of Mughal empire, Islam and Hindu religion. They sought the help of
Imperial forces to exterminate the dangerous common enemy.
The emperor was infuriated; he felt that the Guru was becoming a real
potent danger for the Mughal rule. Consequently in 1704, a large Imperial
force was sent to Punjab to subdue Guru Ji; they were supported by the
Pahari Rajas in this endeavour. The Sikhs met this combined force near
Ropar and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. At the end of the day's
fighting, the Imperial Commanders and the Pahari Rajas had realized
that it would not be possible to defeat the Sikhs in open battle. They,
therefore, decided to lay siege to the city of Anandpur; this was in
summer of 1704. After a long siege, which lasted for many months, Guru
Gobind Singh Ji left Anandpur Sahib during the night of 20 December
1704. A solemn promise was made to him earlier under oath on Cow and
Quran that he will not be molested if he did so. But the enemy did not
keep their word and attacked the Sikhs who bravely checked their advance.
Guru Ji reached Chamkaur by the evening of 21 December, after crossing
Sirsa stream which was in spate on that day, and took defensive position
in a raised mud house (Garhi) with his 40 surviving Sikhs. A battle
ensued in the morning next day morning ie 22 December 1704. But in spite
of heavy odds against them, the Sikhs showed exemplary courage in repulsing
the attacks of the enemy forces. By the evening, most of the defenders
of Chamkaur had attained martyrdom. Guru Ji managed to leave the Garhi
during the night after the surviving Sikhs within the Garhi caused confusion
amongst the enemy forces.
After passing through Machhiwara, Hehar in Ludhiana district, Jatpura,
and Rajkot, Guru Ji reached Dina village ,where he was welcomed by many
Sikhs. Here, in March 1705, he wrote the famous " Zafarnama"
or "Letter of Victory" to Aurangzeb and sent it to him through
Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh. The emperor was camping in South
India at that time. Even though Guru Ji had lost every thing (his four
sons, his mother, his fighters), he felt that in spite of his apparent
reverses he had won a moral victory over the crafty Mughal who had broken
all his vows. The whole letter reads like a rebuke addressed by a superior
personality to the one on a lower place, rebuking him for his weaknesses
and excesses. The tone of the letter is in keeping with its title.
The Zafarnama has been written in exquisite Persian verse, composed
of 111 verses. At mentioned above he wrote this letter during his stay
at Dina which is about two miles from Kangar; he has referred to the
latter place in verse 58. Guru Ji has devoted 34 verses of Zafarnama
in praise of God, 20 verses describe the battle of Chamkaur, 15 verses
convey rebuke to Aurangzeb for breaking oath by him and by his agents,
36 refer to his shortcomings as a just ruler and his invitations to
Guru Ji for discussions. He had also warned Aurangzeb about the resolve
of the Khalsa not to rest till his evil empire is brought to an end
(verses 78 and 79). Guru Ji has also written six verses (89 to 94) in
praise of Aurangzeb, which shows that he was not against the individual
or his religion but against his policy of oppression. Guru Ji was not
in favour of war, which was forced on him (verse 21). In fact all battles
in which he was engaged, were fought in self-defence; he never attacked
anyone for territorial or military gains. After defeating the Pahari
Rajas in the battle of Bhangani, he did not confiscate their land and
property (Is there any parallel example in the history of world where
a victor has treated the vanquished in such a manner?) He has even laid
down that war should be the last resort when all other means to solve
a problem are exhausted (verse 22). Lastly Guru Ji has referred to the
other enemy viz the Pahari Rajas, whom he was trying to emancipate from
the Mughal yoke but instead was forced to take up the sword against
them (verse 95). If these Hill Rajas had not played into the hands of
the Mughals and joined forces with the Guru Ji and accepted him as their
guide and liberator, the Mughal power would have been broken effectively
sooner. There would have been no tyrants like Mir Mannus, and Furrukhsiyars
later and further conversion campaigns would have ended. In fact there
would been altogether a different India today (Life of Guru Gobind Singh
by Prof Kartar Singh).
How did the Zafarnama, in its present form, reach us? Original letter
written in the hand of Guru Ji in not available. However it is said
that a copy of Zafarnama, written in the hand of Guru Ji, was found
with the Mahant of Patna Sahib in 1890 and one Babu Jagan Nath made
a copy; this copy was somehow misplaced by him. Since Babu Jagan Nath
was himself a scholar in Persian language, he could reproduce it from
his memory and got it printed in Nagri Parcharni Patrika in Benaras.
He is also believed to have sent a copy to Sardar Umrao Singh Shergill
in Amritsar who is said to have given it to Khalsa college and which
in turn reproduced in Makhz-e Twarikh Sikhan. In Punjab newspapers,
it first appeared in the Khalsa Samachar of 16 July 1942. Then in 1944,
Sardar Kapur Singh ICS published it in Urdu Ajit of Lahore under the
heading "Fatehnama". It is quite possible that in the process
of translations and publications of Zafarnama at different stages, some
verses were not reproduced correctly and what we have today is not the
original Zafarnama of Guru Ji in its entirety. The abrupt end of Zafarnama
also indicates that it is not complete and that some verses have been
left out. Objections raised by some scholars on the authenticity of
a few verses may be viewed in this context.
Was the Zafarnama as we know today ever sent to Aurangzeb? Scholars
have different views on this. While most agree that Zafarnama in the
present form in verse was indeed sent, others have strong reservations.
Dr Mohan Singh MA Ph D writing in the "Spokesman" of November
1956 has gone to the extent to state, "the belief that Zafarnama
was ever sent to Aurangzeb through Bhai Daya Singh is a figment of imagination".
Some believe that a diplomatic communication, in prose, was indeed sent
by Guru Ji (not the Zafarnama as we know), which gave the details of
excesses committed by the Nawab of Sirhind in collusion with and on
the instigation of Pahari Rajas. The Zafarnama in the present form is
the versified form of this diplomatic communication by Bhai Nand Lal
who was a great scholar of Persian language (Life of Guru Gobind Singh
Ji by Dalip Sing). This argument suffers from the infirmity that Bhai
Nand Lal, along with other poets, had left Anandpur before the siege
of the city began in 1704 (Kalam Bhai Nand Lal by Piara Singh Padam).
After that he met Guru Ji in 1707 seeking his help for Prince Bahadur
Shah against his brother Azam in the war of succession for the Mughal
throne after the death of Aurangzeb (Life of Guru Gobind Singh by Prof
Kartar Singh). All the historical incidents mentioned in the Zafarnama
cover a period of a few months ie from end of December 1704 to the beginning
of 1705 when Bhai Nand Lal was nowhere near Guru Ji.
A number of studies have been done on the compositions of Guru Gobind
Singh Ji like Jap, Akal Ustat, Bachitar Natak, Zafarnama etc; these
all together are known as Dasam Granth. Gurmat Granth Parcharak Sabha
Amritsar in its report of 1897 clearly stated that all these compositions
of Dasam Granth including Zafarnama are in fact written by Guru Ji;
many other Sikh scholars have confirmed this. Many students from 1955
onwards have received doctorates on their research work on Dasam Granth;
barring one or two all have confirmed that Dasam Granth, including Zafarnama
has indeed been composed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (Dasam Granth Sahib
by Dr Ratan Singh Jaggi and Dr Gursharn Kaur Jaggi, published by Gobind
Sadan, New Delhi). This should remove all doubts of the sceptics regarding
the authorship of Zafarnama. Having established that it is indeed composed
by Guru Ji, the next question is : was it sent to Auranagzeb through
Bhai Daya Singh? It may be quite difficult to convince the likes of
Dr Mohan Singh since there is no reference to it in the Emperor's court
records. One can only conjecture that if it was indeed written by Guru
Ji, it must have been sent. Guru Ji had castigated the emperor for the
cold blooded murder of the young Sahibzadas at Sirhid; the Quazi there
had quoted Kuran in support their execution. Since this act was in fact
against the holy Kuran , it was more prudent for the emperor to have
it just ignored by his paid court historians.
There are a number of translations available which have clubbed Zafarnama
with 11 Hikayats. Zafarnama has been given the title " Hikayat
No 1" in these translations. Hikayat is a Persian word which means
"a story" or "a work of fiction". Referring to Zafarnama,
which indicts Aurangzeb's oppressive rule in strongest language as "a
story" or "fiction" does not only lower the high moral
standing of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, but also trivializes a great historical
and literary work. The eleven Hikayats deal with the low level of morality
of some women. Guru Ji had written these Hikayats or stories for the
benefit of Sikhs so they could draw appropriate lessons for developing
a strong moral character. These Hikayats in Persian language are like
the stories of Charitropakhian (both are included in Dasam Granth) which
are also stories of women with low moral values and which were written
by Guru Ji for the same purpose . Such stories must have had a profound
supplementary effect on the moral character of Sikhs. Quazi Nuruddin
who accompanied Ahmed Shah Abdali to India writes in his historical
account " Jangnama" that "these dogs (Sikhs) will not
cast an evil eye on the women of their enemy nor will attack a fallen
opponent. These dogs (Sikhs) had high moral character". (Zafarnama
by Gurdial Singh Bhola Advocate and printed by Allahabad Press Delhi).
Scholars who have clubbed the Zafarnama with the eleven Hikayats have
allowed their imagination to run wild. They hold the view that Guru
Ji sent the entire composition including the Hikayats to Aurangzeb through
Bhai Daya Singh. According to them, the Emperor was supposed to draw
appropriate lesson from the stories of these women of ill repute! At
the end of each Hikayat, such appropriate lesson has in fact been summarised
for the benefit of the reader! The question arises: was it physically
possible for the emperor to go through (or be read) these additional
767 verses of the Hikayats and comprehend their meaning when he was
bed ridden. It appears that these scholars have erred in clubbing these
Hikayats with Zafarnam since these were also composed in Persian language.
It was a matter of convenience for them to put all works of Guru Ji
in Persian language together and give them all a common title "Hikayats"
including the Zafarnama.
There is another work of Guru Ji in Persian language known as "Fatehnama"
also meaning a "letter of victory". There are 24 verses of
this letter. Here again there is difference of opinion amongst scholars.
Some opine that this letter was sent before the Zafarnama while according
to some, this is in fact a part of Zafanama itself. The latter have
started the Zafarnama with the 24 verses of Fatehnama; first verse of
traditional Zafarnama becoming verse 25 in such compositions (Zafarnama
by Nanak Chand Naaz). I have followed the traditional view and have
not clubbed the two; Fatehnama appears separately on this web site.
There is an another controversy about the year in which Guru Ji had
left Anandgarh fort. According to some scholars this happened in December
1704 while others feel that Guru Ji left the fort in November 1705.
As per SGPC website, the battle of Chamkaur was fought on 22 December
1704 and the young Sahibzadas were martyred four days later ie on 26
December 1704. The Sikh scholars, historians and intelligentsia owe
it to the Sikh masses to get together and remove this minor controversy
about these dates.
The layout of the translation is as follows: each verse of Zafarnama
and Fatehnama appears in Gurumkhi, Persian and Roman scripts, followed
by the meaning of each word in English and finally the meaning of the
entire verse in English (in bold letters). Wherever required I have
given a small commentary after some verses either to explain the meaning
of the verse in detail or to compare the translation with others; this
appears in English language, in italics.
In conclusion I would like to comment on the translation of two verses of
Zafarnama i.e. Verses No 42 and 95:
Verse No 42 Almost all have translated the words "Shah-e Shab" as the
"Moon- the king of the Night". The whole verse will then translate as
when the king of the world (i.e. the sun) had set, the king of the night
( ie the moon) came out in all its glory. It conveys that the night of
22 Dec 1704 was a full moon night. Initially I had also translated this
verse like others. However I had my reservations since the full-moon night
would have made the escape of Guruji extremely difficult considering the huge
Mughal force that had surrounded the Garhi. Later I had the good fortune to
meet Baba Iqbal Singh Ji of Baru Sahib (in Himachal Pardesh) and expressed
my reservation about the translation of the verse. Instantly he clarified
that if Sun is the king of the day because it gives light, the king of the
night has to be absence of light ie darkness. This appears logical; I amended
the translation accordingly in 2005.
Software on Astronomy is available by which one can simulate the night
conditions over a place anytime in the past or in the future. I did that for the
night of 22 December 1704 over the general area of Punjab. It may be surprising
to know that the Moon remained on the other side of horizon throughout the night
and appeared (4-5 days old) at the horizon only at 3-30 AM on 23 December 1704.
This does reinforce the logic of translation as stated. Pitch-darkness, that
prevailed throughout the night, would have facilitated successful escape of Guru Ji.
Verse No 95 By the translation given by all (including mine), it gives an
impression that Guru Ji (like Aurangzeb) had not only killed the Paharias but had also
indulged in Idol breaking. It is for the historians to conclude if Guru Ji ever
indulged in this activity though generally it is accepted that he never broke any
idols. I feel that BUT- SHIKAST (idol breaker) should be taken as BUT-PRASTI-SHIKAST
meaning " the breaker of the concept of idol worship" that in fact he was.
Persian, the medium used by Guru Ji in composing Zafarnama and Fatehnama,
is a beautiful language. It is quite easy to understand since it generally
follows a set pattern in changes in its verbs, nouns etc. For ease of
understanding of the language, I have attached a " Note on Persian
Language" which, I trust, the reader will find quite useful.
This website ie www.zafarnama.com was first hoisted on 20 December
2001. This site has now been updated on 19th May 2010.
I shall welcome suggestions, please mail me at email@example.com for improvement of the translation.
| New Delhi
Wg Cdr Jasbir Singh (Retd)