Kesh - Every Sikh's Link with Baba Nanak
The Sikh Raj lost to the British courtesy of internecine fratricide, and treachery by Dogra courtiers. After annexation of the Sikh Raj, Governor General Lord Dalhousie took Maharaja Duleep Singh, who was only nine years old, under his tutelage. Thereafter, it was ensured that all the Sikh attendants and Granthis were removed from Duleep Singh’s service. Young Duleep Singh, along with one Muslim, Mian Khema, was brought from Lahore to Calcutta. After some time Mian Khema was also replaced by Pundit Bhajan Lal of Farukhabad. Bhajan Lal was a product of the American Mission School and he used to recite passages from the Bible to young Duleep Singh.
As planned,on 8th March, 1853, in a special function held at Calcutta under the stewardship of Bishop Dr. Wilson and W. Jay Jay, this last flame of the independence of the Sikh Raj was converted to Christianity. It is interesting to note that even despite the conversion of Duleep Singh to Christianity his hairs were not shorn till a full year later and he continued to wear his beautiful turban.
After a one year wait for young Duleep Singh to unlink himself from Baba Nanak his hairs were also removed. E. Dalhousie Login is most candid when she writes in Lady Login's recollections,
"He (Duleep Singh) had long been anxious to show that he was no longer a follower of Nanuk, the Sikh Prophet, by cutting off the long tress of hair which he, in common with all Sikhs, wore twisted up into a knob above the forehead and covered with the bright-coloured under-turban"
The most important point to note in this episode is that even the firanghees understood that by cutting his hair, a Sikh breaks his relationship to Guru Nanak Dev ji.
During this period Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh was imprisoned at Chinar fort. She managed to escape from there and after wading through jungles and facing physical and mental agony, along with conspiracies, this Punjabi Queen managed to reach Nepal. In the process she lost her eyesight. With the help of the King of Nepal she was able to meet Duleep Singh, who was now no longer a Sikh. Although she could not see her son, she just put her hand upon his head. Instead of the royal turban, her hands touched his naked and barren head and she screamed and wailed.
The loss of her husband Sher-i-Panjab Ranjeet Singh, the lost kingdom, the devilish conspiracies nor the arduous poverty, rumours and insinuations could not shake her courage and boldness. But now, having touched the shorn head of her beloved son, she totally broke down. Young Duleep was shaken to his core. He told his mother that he could not restore her husband, kingdom or riches but that he would definitely, as did Bhai Mahan Singh, get the declaration of his desertion from Guru's dictate removed.
At this time, on 9th March, 1886, Duleep Singh wrote from England to one of his close relatives in Punjab,
"I need not tell you how pleased I shall be (if the Government permits) for you to be present at my receiving "Powhl" which I trust my cousin Thakar Singh Sindanwalia will administer to me… I put my faith entirely in Sutgooroo who now that I turn to him for forgiveness I know will not forsake me"
Despite having decided to remove his apostasy, Duleep Singh, in a rare gesture, addressed a letter to the Sat Sri Akal Purak ka Khalsaji seeking forgiveness. The repentance letter is as follows:
"My beloved Countrymen,
It was not my intention ever to return to reside in India, but Sutgooroo, who governs all destiny, and is more powerful than I, his erring creature, has caused circumstances to be so brought about that, against my will, I am compelled to quit England in order to occupy a humble sphere in India. I submit to His Will; being persuaded that whatever is for the best will happen.
I now, therefore, beg forgiveness of you, Khalsa Jee, or the Pure, for having forsaken the faith of my ancestors for a foreign religion; but I was very young when I embraced Christianity.
It is my fond desire on reaching Bombay to take the Pahul again, and I sincerely hope for your prayers to the Sutgooroo on that solemn occasion.
I am compelled to write this to you because I am not permitted to visit you in the Punjab, as I had much hoped to do.
Truly a noble reward for my unwavering loyalty to the Empress of India! But SutGooroo’s will be done.
With WahGooroo jee ke Futteh,
My beloved Countrymen,
Your own flesh and blood."
[London, 25March, 1886.]
It is pertinent to note that young Duleep Singh was not blessed with the protection, love and care of his parents, and was literally in the imprisonment of aliens, but he still realized his glorious past and the heritage of the Gurus and came back to the Guru’s path.
Those parents who themselves take their innocent children to the barber for cutting their hair, are they not guilty of an act of spiritual murder of their own kith and kin?
About this situation Bhai Gurdas ji writes at Vaar 35, Pauri 22,
"If the mother poisons her son, who can save him? If the guard pillages who can protect?"
ਜੇ ਮਾਉ ਪੁਤੈਵਿਸੁ ਦੇ ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਕਿਸੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ।
ਜੇ ਘਰ ਭੰਨੇਪਾਹਰੂ ਕਉਣ ਰਖਹਾਰਾ।