Sacred Sikh Relics In England

On the conquest of the Punjab in1849 the British naturally did not know what they would find in the Lahore Toshekhanas. No doubt, they knew about the world famous diamond, KOH-I-NOOR being there and had included its transfer to the British Queen among the four terms of the treaty of surrender. But on an inspection of the Toshekhana they found some other objects, which caught their fancy.

The Governor General, Lord Dalhousie almost immediately selected from the arms and armour certain objects for Queen Victoria ”remarkable for beauty or some traditional history.” One of these was the sword presented to Ranjit Singh by Holkar when the latter met him at Amritsar.

There was another “set of arms including spear etc. which Sikh traditions assert to have belonged to the Guru Gobind,“ and which, Dalhousie thought, “it would be impolitic to allow any Sikh institution to obtain possession.”

He sent this proposal to London on 1st May 1849 and a reply was received on 16th April 1851. They suggested that apart from the sword, the Guru Gobind himself may keep these relics as a memorial of the great events in, which His Lordship bore so important a part.”

Dalhousie then wanted from Misr Megh Raj, Treasurer or “ whosoever may be the authority for tradition” a document certifying the tradition regarding the arms. He also wanted these relics and the Gold Chair of Ranjit Singh to be sent to him in Simla before he quit it for Calcutta.

The Misr made out a list on saying that the under mentioned parties presented the following arms to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and saying that Guru Gobind Singh used to wear them.

(1) Shamsher Wa Sipar (sword and shield): These were presented on 30th Bysakh, 1880 sumbut (1823 A. D.) by one Daya Singh of Peshawar to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who gave him a well and a suit of clothes (in return).

(2) Dae-I-Ahinee (an iron weapon): A hillman brought this to the Maharaja 28 years ago.

(3) Neza (a lance): was presented to Maharaja Ranjit Singh by the Singhs of Ubchalnagar.

(4) Chukkur-I-Ahinee (a circular missile weapon of iron): An Akalee Singh presented this to Mr. Ranjit Singh at Utuk.

(5) Shamsher Teghah (a scimitar): Taken from one Baba Bhartee on 25 Magghur 1878 (or 1821 A.D.) and made over to the Toshekhana by Maharaja.

(6) Kulghee-I-Kuch (a crest of glass in a silver case): A Sahibzada descendent of (Nanak) of Vyrowal brought this to Maharaja Ranjit Singh on 7th Chet, 1881 (1824 A.D).

(7) Burchee (a small spear): This belonged to Kumlagarh Raja (Chief of Mundee) who used to worship it. General Ventura got it, when he took the fort of Kumlagarh and presented to it to Koer Naunihal Singh in the month of Magh 1896 or 12 years ago.

(8) Burcha (a large spear): The Khalsa army got this at Jummoo when they invaded that place 8 years ago. The whole army used to worship it.

The Golden Chair and Guru Gobind Singh’s sword were sent to the British Museum on 5th February 1853. The other arms were retained by Dalhousie whom the Secretary to state had allowed to do so.

It was from this lot that four arms of Guru Gobind Singh as shown in the accompanying picture were received back in Punjab 1966 through the efforts of late Mr. W.G. Archer.

Sardar Nahar Singh, an untiring researcher has dug out papers regarding another very important relic which came to be called the Raikot sword of Guru Gobind Singh. Rao Imam Bukhsh and Rao Ahmed Bakhah relatives of the Rani of Raikot (in Ludhiana District) presented to the Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, a swordwhich once belonged to Guru Gobind Singh.

In his letter of 24th May 1854, the Commissioner of Cis-Sutlej Division wrote to the Chief Commissioner, Punjab that “the sword which was given by the Guru himself to the Raikot Chief had ever since been cherished as an heirloom by the family. Sikh Chieftains, such as the rulers of Lahore and the Maharaja of Patiala at various times have been desirous to posses this relic, but the late Rani would never consent to surrender it. The sword is an ordinary looking blade with a gilded hilt, and a scabbard newly covered with red velvet. It bears the inscription in Gurumukhee characters.’’

The inscription was as under: –

(Dahini Taraf)

Aakal purakh di rachaya hamne
Ek Oum Kar Satguruprasadh khase patshahi 10
Sarab loh ki rachya hamne

(Bai Taraf)
Sarab kaal ki rachya hamne sarab ji ki rachya mane

This was officially translated as follows: –

(On the right side of the blade)

“The eternal Being will save me, God is One and
Sath Guru is the Great Incarnate.
This sword is His Gift and bears the Royal signature.
All instruments of iron will do me no harm.”

(On the left side of the blade)

“I am safe (with this) at all times,
All creatures will protect me.”

The Deputy Commissioner also narrated a story about the sword. “The Guru had ordered that it should not be worn or carried except in battle or in some great emergency. The sword was treasured with religious care, until the time of late Rao who took it with him on occasion of a sporting excursion contrary to the earnest remonstrances of his followers. His horse happening to fall with him, he drew the sword to cut the stirrup leather by which he was entangled. The struggles of the horse however were violent and Rao, received from the drawn weapon, a wound on his thigh. The haemorrhage quickly caused his death. This sword had been greatly besought by various Sikh Chiefs from Ranjit Singh to the present Maharaja, who have at different times offered very large sums for its possession. All temptations have been, however, indignantly repelled by the late Rani and the presentation of this treasured memento of the Great Sikh Guru by Rao Imam Bux is, I think, a graceful act on his part and deserves acknowledgement. It would be gratifying to him if the sword were forwarded to England, deposited in honour with the other historical relics of the Sikh Empire.”

When asked to clarify whether the Raos wished the sword to go to the Governor or to the Crown, the Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana wrote on 15th July, 1854. “The wish as expressed to me at Raikot, was to this effect, that the sword of Guru Gobind Singh be sent to the Most Noble the Governor General with a request that should he be graciously pleased, he would cause it to be deposited with the other relics of the Sikh apostle, which were believed by the Raos, and by the people generally, to have been conveyed to England from Lahore with KOH-I-NOOR and other state jewels formerly belonging to the Sikh Government. The feeling, which led to the presentation of this sword, was not that of offering a personal Nazzar to the Most Noble the Governor General. It was that of strong respect for the relic itself, to which a religious sanctity is attached. They evidently desire to see it preserved permanently by the British Government to which the Sikh Empire and Regal rights of their own family have lapsed.

Another sacred object sent to England for deposit in Her Majesty’s Oriental Library was “a perfectly authentic copy of the Adi Granth from Guru Sadhu Singh Sodhi of Kartarpur in Jallundur district.” The objective for this transfer was stated in a letter from the court of Directors in London to the Governor General. It said: “It has been suggested to us that it would be an object of great interest to obtain a perfectly correct copy of the Granth or sacred book of the Sikhs and have a translation made of the Book into English or some other European language. It is undoubtedly desirable that the Government of India becomes acquainted with the Book which regulates the principles and opinions both moral and religious, of so large a population, but the wishes and feelings of those professing the religion should be consulted before the gratification of this desire and the book, if permitted to be translated, be rendered into the English language.”

The Financial Commissioner of Punjab who was assigned this task wrote that he was informed by “all the natives whom I have consulted” that Sodhi of Kartarpur was the proper person to get a copy inscribed “ as he possessed the original written or signed by the Gurus themselves – and could at once have faithfully transcribed and on my applying to him he permitted to have this done. He has also since informed me, that so great a privilege has been always attached by him to the possession of the only true originals that although Maharaja Ranjit Singh had expressed a desire, to obtain a copy taken from them, he had refused to give one. It will, I think, be suitable if he receives from the proper quarters, a recognition of this act of compliance. I would now suggest that these two volumes which I have had fitted into a suitable box, be sent to England for deposit in the Oriental Library belonging to Her Majesty. In India Gurumukhi Language and character do not appear to have been taken up by any of our oriental scholars with interest and I know of no one here (In India) who possesses the requisite knowledge, inclination and leisure for the task of making a translation. I would strongly recommend, therefore, as the preferable course that the scholars of England and of continental countries, be invited to undertake the task on which they would bring to bear philosophical appliances and opportunities and an amount of oriental research and learning not to be looked for here.”

Dr. Ganda Singh, the historian saw the two manuscripts in the British Museum, in London in 1962. He also found three other ‘’rare and important manuscripts of the Adi Sri Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth.” One of the former was found ‘’in a tent of one of the hostile chiefs – probably Sher Singh’s.’’ The other bore the Bikrami date of the completion of manuscript corresponding to 16th January, 1746, only 38 years after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. 

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