Baba Deep Singh

Scribe, Scholar, Soldier & Shaheed (1682 – 1757)

Revered as the ultimate warrior, legendary Baba Deep Singh made the most extraordinarily imaginable  supreme sacrifice of “giving his head” while in service of the Sikh Panth (nation). His final valorous act of courage, an exclamation mark punctuating his remarkable life, is marked by a marble memorial set into the Harmandir Sahib parkarma (walkway at the Golden Temple) surrounding the sacred waters of the sarovar (tank) for which he gave his final breath.

Miraculous Birth
The Sikh farmer Bhai Bhagta ji and his wife Mai Jioni resided in the village Pahuwind located about 26 miles (40km) Southwest of Amritsar the home of Darbar Harmandir Sahib and the Akal Thakat, the supreme throne of spiritual and secular authority for the Sikh Panth. Though married for 20 years the couple had no children. In desperation, the husband suggested they purchase an amulet, but his wife resolutely refused the lure of magician charms. A saintly Sikh visited their home and advised the couple to put their faith in Waheguru. He suggested reciting the prayer composed by 5th Guru Arjan Dev upon the birth of his own son. 

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸਾਚੈ ਦੀਆ ਭੇਜਿ ॥
satigur saachai deeaa bhej ||
The True Guru has truly given a child.
ਚਿਰੁ ਜੀਵਨੁ ਉਪਜਿਆ ਸੰਜੋਗਿ ॥
chir jeevan upjiaa sanjog ||
The long-lived one has been born to this destiny.
ਉਦਰੈ ਮਾਹਿ ਆਇ ਕੀਆ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥
audarai maeh aai keeaa nivaas ||
He came to acquire a home in the womb,
ਮਾਤਾ ਕੈ ਮਨਿ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਬਿਗਾਸੁ ॥੧॥
maataa kai man bahut bigaas ||1||
and his mother's heart is so very glad. ||1|| SGGS Ang 396

1682 – On the 26th day of January, (14th day of Magh 1739 Bk), Mai Jioni delivered a healthy son. The couple named him Deepa (lamp light) and lavished him with love. Waheguru blessed the couple with a second son after another two and a half years, and Deepa became an elder brother.

1687 – Deepa received an education from age five which included studies in Sikh history and Gurbani scriptures. 

Scholar In the Court of Guru Gobind Singh
1694 – Bhai Bhagta ji took his family on a trip to Anandpur to visit the court of 10th Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikh Sangat (congregation) during Deepa’s twelfth year. When the family prepared to return home, Guru Gobind Singh requested the lad to stay in Anandpur where the boy furthered his studies of Gurbani and learned the Gurmukhi script with Bhai Mani Singh. Sikh warriors also taught Deepa the art of weaponry and horsemanship. 

1700 – In his 18th year, Deepa approached the Panj Pyare, the Five Beloved Administers of Amrit, and took part in the Khalsa initiation ceremony during the Vaisakhi festival. Following his initiation in to the Khalsa brotherhood, he became known as Bhai Deep Singh, and continued studies with Bhai Mani Singh. 1701 – Bhai Deep Singh fought his first and second battles as a Khalsa warrior alongside Guru Gobind Singh in skirmishes with the Hill Rajas. 

An Interlude of Family Life

1702 – Guru ji instructed Bhai Deep Singh to return to the home of his aging parents in his 20th year. His mother urged her son to wed, and his parents arranged a marriage for their son. Deep Singh helped his father and brother with farming, while enjoying a peaceful interlude of family life.

Call to Anandpur

1704 – Guru Gobind Singh sent out a call to all Khalsa warriors to join him at Anandpur. Bhai Deep Singh returned to the Guru’s side.

1705 – Deep Singh remained in Anandpur until the evacuation of Anandpur on the night of December 5th. Bhai Deep Singh joined Bhai Mani Singh to accompany the Guru’s wives, Mata Sundari & Mata Sahib Kaur, as they crossed the turbulent waters of the river Sarsa, and escorted them both safely to Delhi. Bhai Deep Singh then returned to his family home where he learned of the martyrdom of the Guru’s elder two sons and Chamkaur and his younger two sons and mother at Sirhind

Scribe of the Guru’s Court 

1706 – Guru Gobind Singh survived the evacuation of Anandpur and the subsequent battle at Chamkaur which claimed his elder two son’s lives. Guru ji took refuge at Talwandi Sabo, in Bathinda, where he requested Bhai Deep Singh to join him. There, Bhai Deep Singh took up scribe duties. Over a period of more than 15 months, Guru Gobind Singh recited the entire scripture of Guru Granth Sahib, adding the verses of his father, Guru Teg Bahadur, while Bhai Deep Singh Bhai Mani Singh wrote down each word by hand. 

The Guru renamed Talwandi Sabo as Guru ki Khashi, which later became known as Damdama Sahib, and one of five Thakats, or sovereign seats of authority. Guru ji appointed Bhai Deep Singh as Jathedar, or head of Damdama, and about this time he became known as Baba Deep Singh. Guru ji commissioned him to scribe four more copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib to be sent to each of the Takhats:

  • Akal Takhat Sahib
  • Takhat Patna Sahib
  • Takhat Hazur Sahib
  • Takhat Anandpur Sahib

1708 – Guru Gobind Singh felt his end approaching. Before succumbing to his fatal wound on October 7th, Guru ji appointed Banda Bahadar Singh the leader of his armies. Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Siri Guru Granth Sahib should be his eternal successor with a coronation ceremony to insure its status of supreme Guru of the Sikhs. 

1709 – Baba Deep Singh joined forces with Banda Singh Bahadur at the battle of Chappar Chiri to execute Wazir Kahn and then their armies besieged and broke the Mughal stronghold at Sirhind, where the Khan had ordered the Guru’s younger sons and mother to be cruelly martyred. 

1728 – Baba Deep Singh remained at his task of scribe in Damadama for 22 years. He continued on making copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib by hand until each of the copies had been sent to, and arrived at their respective destinations. During those years, he also made a copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Arabic script which he sent to the Middle East, (now Baghdad, Iraq).

Soldier of the Panth 

During his years as scribe Baba Deep Singh had also soldiered at times with the Khalsa warriors. Once completing the task of copying Sri Guru Granth Sahib for each the Thakats, he become more focused and involved with military duties.

1732 – Baba Deep Singh assisted in the rescue of Sardar Ala Singh in Barnala.

1733 – The Mughal governor of Lahore hoped for peace and petitioned the Sikhs offering them Nawab and Jagir government positions. Baba Deep Singh went to Amritsar to join forces with Nawab Kapur Singh, where they created the Dal Khalsa. As these forces grew in number, they split into the Buddha Dal and the Taruna Dal. Subsequent divisions of the Dal continued to grow and split into further divisions. 

1748 – Eventually the various divisions of the growing Dal system became known as Misls. Baba Deep Singh had been given charge of a Dal division in Talwandi renamed the Shaheed (Martyr) Misl which covered the area south of the River Sutlej where he scored numerous victories against tyrannical oppressors. Baba ji maintained headquarters at Thakat Sri Damdama, where he lived in the tower called Burj Baba Deep Singh Shahid.

1755 & 56 – Amad Shah Durrani (Abdali) mounted a fourth invasion of India. His armies transported valuables looted from villages and townships that they had raided. In addition to gold and silver, they had captured thousands of women, young girls, and boys, from both Hindu and Muslim households. These unfortunates captives had been bound together in bullock carts destined for the harems of Abdali, and for auction at slave markets. Though their cries could be heard as they passed through various communities, no one dared to interfere. The leaders of the Misls learned of their distress and made the decision to mount a rescue the victims from their plight. Baba Deep Singh and his Shaheed Misl waited concealed near the River Markandada. As the caravan neared Krukshetra, the warriors heard the piteous wailing of the captives. The chaste Sikhs ferociously attacked the malicious marauding invaders. The Khalsa warriors freed the prisoners from their molesters, and returned the carts of innocent women and children to their homes. Along the way the liberated captives joyfully sang to their blessed liberators:

"Moreen Baba Kachh Waleaa, Chhai Naheen Taan Ran Gai Basre Noon Gai"

'O' brave Sikhs, wearer of kachhera (chaste undergarment), liberate the enslaved daughters, otherwise seized and bound for Basra.


Shaheed the Supreme Sacrifice 

1757 – Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded areas of Punjab adjoining his Afghan territories. Upon arriving in Lahore, he appointed his son Taimur Shah viceroy, and assigned 10,000 soldiers under General Jahan Khan to protect his interests. Infuriated by the liberation of his captives and seizure of his looted treasures, Durrani ordered the destruction of Harmandir Sahib. In May, General Jahan demolished the Sikh fortress Ram Rauni in Amritsar, destroyed the gurdwara, and defiled the sarovar, filling the tank with the entrails and offal of slaughtered animals.   

Baba Deep Singh learned of the desecration by the Durrani forces, and immediately raised an army of 500 volunteers to accompany him to Amritsar. By the time he reached Tarn Taran, about 10 miles from Harmandir Sahib, his army had grown along the way to more than 5,000. Baba Deep Singh stopped and assembled all those who had accompanied him. He raised his 30 lb double edged sword, and then lowered his khanda to make a line in the earth and declared, “Let no one cross this line who is not whole heartedly prepared to die fighting.” Vowing to reach Amritsar, he then recited this line from a shabad composed by Guru Nanak. 

ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥
jaou taou prem khelann kaa chaaou ||
If you desire to play this game of love with Me,
ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥
sir dhar talee galee meree aaou ||
Then step onto My Path with your head in hand.
ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥
it maarag pair dhareejai ||
When you place your feet on this Path,
ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥
sir deejai kaan na keejai ||20||
Give Me your head, and pay no attention to public opinion. ||20|| SGGS Ang 1412

The entire assembly crossed the line with utter conviction, and made their way with Baba Deep Singh to Amritsar.  Jahan Khan intercepted them with a contingent of 20,000 soldiers about five miles from Amritsar near Goharwal. The Sikhs fought valiantly armed only with hand weaponry. Fighting the invaders hand to hand with swords, spears, and axes, they had nearly defeated their adversaries when enemy reinforcements arrived. This only strengthened the resolve of the determined Khalsa warriors so that they fought even more ferociously, all the while advancing steadily towards their goal of reclaiming Harmandir Sahib with Baba Deep Singh at their head.

As they neared Darbar Harmandir Sahib, the Mughal commander Jamal Khan attacked Baba Deep Singh. The two swung their mighty swords, each cleaving mortal wounds. The Khan fell instantly to the ground, head severed from his body.  A young Sikh combatant called out to Baba Deep Singh ji to remember his oath to reach Amritsar. Clutching his head with one hand, and swinging his khanda with the other, Baba Deep Singh’s unwavering resolve carried him somehow to the Sarovar. The miraculous spectacle completely unnerved the enemy, who fled terrorized by their own cowardice. 

Upon reaching his goal, Baba Deep Singh Ji collapsed and threw his severed head to where it fell and rolled to its final resting place. This exact spot is memorialized in stone for all who visit Darbar Harmandir Sahib to see.  His khanda is kept at the Akal Takhat. 

The legend of Baba Deep Singh has not diminished with time. Memorial shrines, and gurdwaras mark where he drew the line with his khanda, where he received his mortal wound, where he fell and threw his head, and where it came to rest. This same story has been told by his descendants over generations.

ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਾਵੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਾਸ ਤੇ ਰਾਖੈ ॥
prabh bhaavai bin saas tae raakhai ||
If it pleases God, the body is preserved, even without the breath of life.
SGGS Ang 277

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir has written hundreds of articles on topics related to Sikhism and has co-written and and edited several books on the Gurmat teachings and Naam Simran meditation. 

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