The ‘Life of Guru Gobind Singh’ by Professor Kartar Singh introduces the background behind Guru Gobind Singh’s life, as well as key events that occurred throughout. Having originally been published in 1932, Kartar Singh intended that this book would present a picture of Guru Gobind Singh that is consistent with his views and teachings. Kartar Singh interestingly mentions that shortly before the publication of the second edition, the events of 1947 meant that the printed forms and pages of the manuscript had been left in Pakistan. Having left in such circumstances, he was lucky to obtain a copy of the book, of which he then used to publish the second edition 1950. This current copy is a reprinted version of the 1968, third edition.
The book begins with an introduction to the Gurus that preceded Guru Gobind Singh, focussing particularly on Guru Nanak and the foundation that was set during his life. This brings some useful context to the philosophy of the Gurus and the ways in which this philosophy had been implemented. Following a chapter on the Guru Gobind Singh’s early life and childhood, Kartar Singh delves into the shaheedi of Guru Tegh Bhahadur and makes reference to Guru Gobind Singh’s description of this divine sacrifice in Bachittar Natak.
“After the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, some Sikhs from Delhi brought his (Guru Tegh Bahadur) last orders regarding Guruship, that is, regarding the appointment of his successor. In accordance with those orders, Guru Gobind Singh was formally installed on Gur-Gaddi some time in Maghar 1732 BK/ November 1675 A.D. Baba Ram Kanwar, a descendant of Baba Buddha, performed the ceremony.” - Page 35, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom
Kartar Singh then goes on to discuss the challenges faced during conflict with the hill chiefs such as Raja Bhim Chand. The author also details the establishment of the Anandpur darbar as well as briefly touching on the topic of the Nirmalas and Bhai Nand Lal. Alongside a summary of Guru Gobind Singh’s household and family, Kartar Singh builds an insightful picture of the time during Guru Gobind Singh’s life and the context around him. Chapter 24, titled ‘Birth of the Khalsa’ looks specifically at the events of Baisakhi 1699 A.D.
“A draught of Amrit completely transmuted the disciples, whether drawn from the ‘high’ or the ‘low’ castes. They lost the old distinctions based on caste and became a nation of brothers, with Guru Gobind Singh as their father. Guru Nanak’s mission was fulfilled. The duty charged with which Guru Gobind Singh had been sent into the world had been successfully discharged. The Divine Orders had been fully carried out. This was the Master’s great miracle of creation - ‘his Khalsa which he brought out ready-made from his brain as Jupiter had brought out Minerva.’* - Page 131, Birth of the Khalsa (*The Book of the Ten Masters by Puran Singh)
Kartar Singh expands on the creation of the Khalsa and its significance, at which point he leads onto the rising conflicts with the hill chiefs and the consequent siege of Anandpur. The author provides an account of these events and also discusses the shaheedi of the sahibzaade at Chamkaur and Sirhind. Towards the latter part of the book, Kartar Singh covers the journeys of Guru Gobind Singh that followed and briefly touches on his relationship with Bahadur Shah and then Banda Singh Bahadur.
The final chapters, The Master at a Glance and The Master’s Achievements, summarise Guru Gobind Singh’s life with respect to his character, his role as a poet and scholar, a social reformer and an apostle of democracy. Furthermore, Kartar Singh highlights what Guru Gobind Singh found and left for society and also presents the views of prominent authors such as J. D. Cunningham.
Kartar Singh’s work is an informative and easy to read book that is focussed specifically on Guru Gobind Singh’s life as a whole. The author reflects on many historical sources and addresses misconceptions that have occurred throughout history. This book is highly recommended for all of those who wish to understand more about the life of Guru Gobind Singh and is suitable for beginners and experts alike.