Singh, Guru Gobind
(1666–1708)
   10th Sikh guru
   Guru Gobind Singh was the 10th and final Sikh GURU in the lineage of Guru NANAK, the founder of SIKHISM. He established the beliefs and prac-tices that the community follows to this day, including the devotion to scripture as the only GURU.
   Gobind Rai was born on December 22, 1666, to Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, and Mata Gujari in Patna in Bihar state. The young boy was taught the language of Bihari and Guru-mukhi script as a child and was schooled in the life and deeds of the previous gurus. He was given a comprehensive education of India: the historical, social, religious, and political context. In keeping with the Sikh tradition he was also trained in music, prayers, and the use of weapons. He was raised in a family who held close relations with both Hindus and Muslims. He spent much of his childhood playing on the banks of the GANGES River and was said to be bold, with all the mak-ings of a leader.
   Guru Gobind’s father met a violent death when the boy was less than 10 years old; Sikhs claim he was executed by Emperor Aurangzeb, Mughal ruler of India, as part of a campaign to convert India to Islam. Controversy surrounds the details, but the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur remains part of the Sikh belief system.
   In 1675, the family made a long journey to Punjab, and in November of that year Gobind Rai was initiated as the 10th Sikh guru. Although still a child, he was said to be very self-aware. He continued to train in philosophy, politics, and weaponry. The popularity of the Sikh tradition continued to spread across India, drawing both Muslim and Hindu disciples.
   Guru Gobind Singh had three wives. His first marriage was to Mata Jeeto of Lahore, who gave birth to three sons, Jujhar, Zoravar, and Fateh. He later married Mata Sundari of Lahore, who gave birth to another son, Ajit. She survived Singh and was revered as a great teacher by Sikhs after her husband’s death. His last wife, Mata Sahib Devi of the Jehlam District, went to Guru Gobind after vowing to marry no one else. He did not wish to marry but agreed to a platonic relationship in which she could share her life with him.
   Singh taught the oneness of humankind, love and worship of God, self-awakening, and social justice, all part of the Sikh heritage. His unique contribution, however, was to organize the Khalsa (pure ones) order in 1699, probably in response to his father’s martyrdom decades before. The purpose of the Khalsa was to pro-mote sacrifice for DHARMA, the right way of liv-ing. Members were enjoined to resist any form of slavery based on class, caste, or religion and to prioritize their commitment to social justice. Guru Gobind even advocated the use of arms when in resistance to oppression. He also insti-tuted the five K’s, observed by male Sikhs to the present day: (1) kesh, long hair; (2) kangh, a comb; (3) kach, short pants (for quick move-ment); (4) kara, a steel bracelet; and (5) kirpan, a knife.
   Guru Gobind Singh declared that upon his death the line of individual gurus would end and the authority of the guru would rest solely in the scripture—the Adi Granth (called the Guru Granth Sahib)—and in the Khalsa, the fellowship of pure followers. Guru Gobind Singh died on October 7, 1708.
   Further reading: Surinder Singh Johar, Guru Gobind Singh (New Delhi: Enkay, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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