Bhai Mani Singh Shaheed (martyr) (1670 – 9 July 1737), a great Sikh personality of the eighteenth century, occupies a very esteemed position in Sikh history, when he assumed control and steered the course of the Sikhs’ destiny at a very critical stage. A great scholar, a devoted Sikh, and a courageous leader, Bhai Mani Singh willingly laid down his life to uphold the dignity of the Sikh religion and the Sikh nation. The nature of his martyrdom has become a part of the daily Sikh Ardas (prayer). He compiled Dasam Granth which includes Banis of Guru Gobind Singh.
In the service of the Guru
Bhai Mani Singh is said to have been brought in the early years of his childhood to the presence of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji at Anandpur. He was not the same age as the Guru’s own son, Gobind Rai. Mani Singh remained in his company even after he had ascended the religious seat as Guru. Mani Singh accompanied the Guru to the seclusion of Paonta where Guru Gobind Singh spent some three years in large part given to literary work.
Bhai Mani Singh took Amrit at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh Ji on the day of the creation of Khalsa. When Guru Gobind Singh Ji left Anandpur on the night of December 20, 1704, his family got separated at river Sirsa during the confusion created by the Mughal attack. Bhai Mani Singh took Mata Sundri Ji and Mata Sahib Devan to Delhi via Ambala.
In 1706, Bhai Mani Singh escorted Mata Sundri Ji the wife of Guru Gobind Singh to Talwandi Sabo where the Guru was staying. It was there that she learned of the Martyrdom of her four sons and their Grandmother. When Guru Sahib left Agra with Emperor Bahadur Shah for Nanded in 1707, Mata Sahib Devan and Bhai Mani Singh accompanied him. Afterwards Bhai Mani Singh escorted Mata Sahib Devan Ji back to Delhi where she lived with Mata Sundri Ji for the rest of her life.
Mata Sundri Ji came to know of the trouble that was brewing between the Tat Khalsa and Bandai Khalsa military factions of the Sikhs. She appointed Bhai Mani Singh as the Granthi of Harimandir Sahib and sent him to Amritsar with Mama Kirpal Singh (Chand), the maternal uncle of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. On his arrival at Amritsar in 1721, Bhai Mani Singh restored peace among the Khalsa and put the affairs of Harimandir Sahib in order.
The Mughal Empire
By 1737, the Mughal government of Lahore had strictly prohibited the Sikhs to visit Amritsar and bathe in the holy tank. To overcome this restriction, Bhai Mani Singh applied to Governor Zakariya Khan for permission to hold the Diwali festival at the Golden Temple. The permission was granted for a promised payment of Rs.5,000 to the Governor. Bhai Mani Singh was certain that he would be able to pay the sum out of the offerings that would be made by the Sikhs who were invited to come.
The Sikhs came in large numbers, but Zakariya Khan, under the pretext of keeping order, sent a force under Diwan Lakhpat Rae to Amritsar. It marched towards the city on the day of the festivalin order to intimidate and disperse the Sikhs and the festival broke up at the approach of the Mughal army.
Bhai Mani Singh was the Head Granthi of Sri Darbaar Sahib, Amritsar. Mata Jeeto Ji (short for Ajeet Kaur, also known as Mata Sundri Ji), the wife of Guru Gobind Singh Ji requested Bhai Mani Singh to sort out the disputes amongst the different Sikh groups, which had formed, and unite the Sikh nation as one. Bhai Mani Singh Ji planned to use Bandi Chhor Divas, Diwali, as an opportunity to unite the Khalsa together at Sri Harimandar Sahib.
Permission was sought from the Mughal authorities to allow the big gathering on Diwali. The Governor of Panjab, Zakhriya Khan accepted the plea in return of 5000 gold coins worth of tax. Bhai Mani Singh Ji accepted and sent letters out to the Sikhs across Panjab that all Sikhs will unite on Diwali day at Amritsar.
However, the Mughals were cunning and they planned to attack the Sikhs and kill all the young Sikh men when they gathered at Amritsar. With the blessings of Waheguru, an informant informed Bhai Mani Singh of the Mughal plans. Bhai Mani Singh Ji was angered at the betrayal of Zakhriya Khan. He resent letters out to the Sikhs across Panjab, telling them not to come to Amritsar on Diwali and that the gathering of the all the Khalsa has been cancelled.
Bhai Mani Singh Ji refused to pay the tax for Sikh gathering at Amritsar, which was supposed take place on Diwali day but was cancelled. On refusing to pay the 5000 gold coins worth of tax, Bhai Mani Singh Ji was arrested by the Mughal police force and brought to Lahore to the court of Zakhriya Khan. Bhai Mani Singh Ji greeted Zakhriya Khan with Guru Gobind Sing Ji’s salutation, “Waheguru Jee Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Jee Ki Fateh (the Khalsa is Waheguru’s, the victory is Waheguru’s).
Listening, Zakhriya Khan became enraged and said, “Oh Mani Singh, open your eyes and see, you are that this moment not walking in the parkarmaa of Harimandar, where you shout these slogans! You are now in Lahore, in Zakhriya Khan’s court, where the air says, “Allah is great, Allah is great”, where do you get the nerve to say your Sikh slogans? Bhai Mani Singh said with might and power, “you haven’t met a fox today, you have today met a lion of Guru Gobind Singh Ji!”
Zakhriya Khan contained his anger and said, “Oh old man, you are no longer young. If you convert into my religion, then I will convert the remainder of your life into happiness and pleasure. I will give you many wives, I will give you land and will give you a throne to sit on. Oh Mani Singh, what is the difference, before you read Gurbaani and now can you read the Qur’an. Before you used to say ‘Waheguru’, now you can say ‘Allah is Great’. What is the difference in this?”
Bhai Mani Singh, who was an educated Sikh, said, “Oh Zakhriya Khan, remember, we have no anger or hatred with your religion. Our Bani says… PrIdw by invwjw kuiqAw eyh n BlI rIiq ] kbhI cil n AwieAw pMjy vKq msIiq ]70] Fareeda be nevaajaa kutiyaa, eh naa bhallee reeth. Kabhee chal naa aayiaa panjey vakath maseeth… Fareed: O faithless dog, this is not a good way of life. You never come to the Mosque for your five daily prayers (Ang 1381, SGGS).”
“Avil Alh nUru aupwieAw kudriq ky sB bMdy ] eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw kaun Bly ko mMdy ]1]Aval Allah noor upaayiaa, kudhrath ke sabh bandhey. Eik noor the sabh jag upjiyia,a kaun bhalley ko mundhey… First, Allah created the Light; then, by His Creative Power, He made all mortal beings. From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad? (Ang 1349, SGGS)”
“Oh Zakhriya Khan, remember, in the religion we were born, in that religion we will breath our last breaths. You say you know the stories about the Sikhs. Do you know that Guru Nanak Ji planted the flower of Sikhi and that even a storm cannot uproot that flower. Not even a storm! It is that type of flower which is does not bend down but instead breaks,” said Bhai Mani Singh Ji.
Shakespeare says: “Those who face the storm they stay, those who bend they break.”
Gurbaani says: ‘purjw purjw kit mrY kbhU n CwfY Kyqu… Purjaa purjaa katt marai, kabhooh naa chhaadai keyth…He may be cut apart, piece by piece, but he never leaves the field of battle’ (Ang 1105, SGGS).
Zakhriya Khan replied to Bhai Mani Singh Ji, “Your talk is very big Mani Singh. Remember, I will give you that type of torture; I will decree that type of fatwaa, legal decree, that you will shake and tremble.
With a smile one his face, Bhai Mani Singh Ji answered back, “The land can shake, the sky can tremble, but a Sikh of Guru Nanak Ji cannot tremble or shake. Sikhi is that religion, whose fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji sat on a hot plate and faced tortures. It is that religion, that in order to keep it alive, children aged 5 and 7 years old gave up their lives but not their religion. Remember Zakhriya, I will die for my religion, but will not do what you say.”
The next day, Zakhriya Khan called the Qazi. “Oh Qazi, from your book of Shari’a Law, I want you declare a fatwaa (legal judgement), such a fatwaa that the whole earth and sky will tremble,” said Zakhriya Khan. The Qazi opened the Book of Shari’a and announced the fatwaa: “May this Kaafir (Infidel) be cut piece by piece, limb by limb.”
Listening, Bhai Mani Singh started to stump his foot into the ground in frustration. Zakhriya was standing by and said, “Oh Mani Singh, you got scared? You seemed be getting frustrated. We have only made you listen to the fatwaa, we have yet to cut you limb by limb.”
Staring into Zakhriya Khan’s eyes, Bhai Mani Singh said, “Oh Zakhriya Khan I am not scared. I am frustrated with my Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji.” He replied, “Obviously you were going to get frustrated with your Guru! What have you got out of your Guru’s Sikhi? Having a fatwaa of being cut limb by limb. You still have time to convert to Islam.”
Bhai Mani Singh answered back, “This is not the case. I am frustrated with my Guru because when I left Amritsar, I did an Ardaas. “Oh King and Master, may each hair on my body be accepted for GurSikhi.” But instead why have my limbs only been accepted and not each hair on my body. What shortage (kammee) was there in my Ardaas?”
“You seem to talk lots, but remember yet you have not seen the face of the executioner. When you see him you will get frightened,” said Zakhriya Khan. The executioner arrived. In his hand is a blade. “Oh executioner, sharpen up your blade and I will sharpen up my mind,” said Bhai Mani Singh to the executioner. The executioner replied, “I will sharpen my blade with sand. What will you sharpen your mind with?” Bhai Mani Singh answered him, “Oh executioner, with the sand you are going to sharpen your blade, that sand can break because man made it. But Akaal Purakh makes the sand I am going to use. That sand is, Naam, that sand is Gurbaani. I will sharpen my mind with Naam and Gurbaani.”
Now the executioner sharpens his blade with sand and Bhai Mani Singh Ji sharpened his mind with Naam. He recited Japji sahib and finishing reciting Gurbaani he roared a loud jaikaara, “Boley so nihaal! Sat sri Akaal!” With a glowing face with the power of Naam and Gurbaani, Bhai Mani Singh Ji shouted to the executioner, “Come on executioner, now me and you will talk.” A wooden block was brought forward. Bhai Mani Singh came forward saying “Satnaam Waheguru” he put forward his right hand on the wooden block.
The executioner makes his mark on Bhai Mani Singh’s fingers. Bhai Mani Singh Ji pulls away his hand. “Mani Singh, you got scared! Before you were talking so much, yet this is the first cut. You couldn’t even handle the first cut, yet we are going to cut you limb by limb, your whole body,” said Zakhriya Khan.
Bhai Mani Singh Ji replied back, “Oh executioner, what were your orders? You were ordered to cut me piece by piece. You have left all my fingers. Zakhriya Khan, ensure your servant doesn’t disrespect your orders and I will not disrespect my Father, Guru Gobind Singh Ji Paatshaah’s orders.
Piece by piece, Bhai Mani Singh Ji’s body was cut to bits. Bhai Mani Singh Ji only recited Gurbaani, and it was what he had lived and breathed… “purjw purjw kit mrY kbhU n CwfY Kyqu… Purjaa purjaa katt marai, kabhooh naa chhaadai keyth…He may be cut apart, piece by piece, but he never leaves the field of battle (Ang. 1105).Bhai Mani Singh was executed at Nakhas, Lahore in December, 1737 AD. Nakhas has since been known as Shaheed Ganj – the place of martyrdom .
Saying ‘Satnaam Waheguru’ Bhai Mani Singh Ji’s fingers, wrist, elbows, shoulder, toes and knees were all chopped on the wooden block. There was a pool of blood. The body lay severed into pieces. No arms, no legs. “myrw isr jwvy qW jwvy, pr myrI is`KI isdk nw jwvy[Mera Sir Jaava Taa Jaava Par Meri Sikhi Sidq naa java… If my head goes then so be it, but may I never give up my Sikh faith.”
Bhai Mani Singh acted as scribe when at the age of 14 Guru Gobind Singh Ji – the 10th Guru of the Sikhs – dictated Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He also transcribed many copies of the sacred Sikh scriptures which were sent to different preaching centers in India. He also taught the reading of Gurbani and its philosophy to the Sikhs.
Bhai Sahib was responsible for collecting the Gurbani of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and compiling it in the form of Dasam Granth (Book of the Tenth Guru). Besides this, Bhai Sahib also authoredJapji Sahib Da Garb Ganjni Teeka (teeka means translation and explanation of a work). He expanded the first of Bhai GurDas’s Vaars into a life of Guru Nanak which is called Gyan Ratanawali. Mani Singh wrote another work, the Bhagat Ralanawali, an expansion of Bhai GurDas’s eleventh Vaar, which contains a list of famous Sikhs up to the time of Guru Har Gobind.
In his capacity as a Granthi of the Darbar Sahib JI at Harmandar Sahib, Bhai Singh is also stated to have composed the Ardaas (Supplication) in its current format; he also started the tradition of mentioning deeds of various Gursikhs with the supplication.