July 9 was Bhai Mani Singh Ji’s Shahidi Diwas (Martyrdom day). We remeber Bhai Sahib every day in our Ardas – “Jina Singha Singhnian ne Dharam het sis dite, Band Band Katwaye…”.
Here is a video on Bhai Mani Singh ji’s life and Shahidi. Below is a brief article about Bhai Sahib’s life.
Bhai Mani Singh Shaheed (martyr), a great Sikh personality of the eighteenth century, occupies a very esteemed position in Sikh history, when he assumed the 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).
Bhai Mani Singh jee was a very wise Gursikh who was respected by the entire Sikh community. He was a very committed naam abhyaasee and besides being very spiritual was very knowledgeable as well. His entire life was moulded by Satguru jee’s baaNee. He was karmee, dharmee, a Bhagat, a Gainee (ਕਰਮੀ ਧਰਮੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਗਿਆਨੀ). He kept all rehat that Guru Jee had ordained.
Bhai Mani Singh jee stayed with Satguru jee and Satguru jee used to call him “Maneeaa”. Because of his time with Guru jee, his Sikhi was very strong. When Guru jee used to finish eating, Bhai Mani Singh jee used to eat the leftovers. Bhai Sahib was very stubborn and whatever he set his mind to do, he would do it no matter what.
Bhai Sahib would teach other Gursikhs about Sikhi and if a Sikh made a mistake, he would summon him to the Akaal Takhat and have him punished. Just like Sikhs were inducted earlier by Baba Buddha jee, in the same way, later on, Bhai Mani Singh would teach the Sikhs about Sikhi. He taught all castes and classes without discrimination. Bhai Mani Singh would teach history and also explain baaNee.
Bhai Mani Singh jee had accompanied Mata Sundari jee to Delhi but was sent back to Sree Amritsar Sahib so that he could start a Langar at Sree Darbaar Sahib. He organised all this and where before all money would be sent to the Guru’s treasury, now it was all used in the langar for the Khalsa. This was done because Guru Sahib had said he loved the Khalsa and serving the Khalsa was the greatest deed of all.
The Mistake and Sangats bachan
Bhai Mani Singh decided once to separate Guru Granth Sahib jee (some say this means that he changed the order of the baaNee and others say this means he made gutkaas and pothees. There is a Granth in Delhi attributed to Bhai Manee Singh in which the baaNee is divided not according to raag, but according to each Guru and then according to each Bhagat so this seems most likely the mistake that was made.) The sangat heard of this and was outraged and said that just like Bhai Mani Singh has cut joints of Guru Granth Sahib Jee, he too would be cut from joints for his mistake. They told Bhai Sahib, “Bhai Mani Singh! You too will be cut from joints like this!”.
News of this outrage soon reached Bhai Mani Singh. Bhai Mani Singh was saddened and said that he had split the beeR for what he thought was a good cause. At the same time Bhai Sahib recognised that the Sangat’s word would not go empty. The Sangat’s words have power and what they had said would certainly come true. He accepted that what the sangat had said would happen no matter what. This acceptance shows the true character of Bhai Manee Singh, he humbly accepted the criticism and any punishment. As we will read later he had the opportunity to not give Shahedee but because of his love for Sangat he wanted their bachan to come true and restore any of his dignity within their feet.
Bhai Sahib jee went to the Akaal Takhat where the Sangat had gathered and with folded hands stood before them. He said, “Khalsa jee, please forgive me for the sin I have committed. Because there is no difference between the Guru and the Guru’s Sangat, only you can now forgive me. I accept the decision of the Sangat. Khalsa jee! I will fulfil the words of the Sangat with all my power, but please do ardaas for me that my Sikhi is not stained and remains intact until my final breaths. And please also do this ardaas, that when I am cut apart from joints, may I not feel any pain and may I not even notice any difference. If I feel pain and then cry out, my Sikhi will be stained. May there be no effect on my Sikhi and may Guru Sahib come to my help so that I may pass this test. If this all happens, then I will feel happy that my Sikhi has remained intact and I did not falter.”
ਮੇਰੀ ਸਿੱਖੀ ਸਾਬਤ ਰਹੈ I ਬੰਦ ਬੰਦ ਕਾਟਤ ਨਹਿਂ ਦੁਖ ਅਹੈ I੧੪ I
ਸਿੱਖੀ ਮੈਂ ਕਿਛ ਭੰਗ ਨ ਪਵੈ I ਦੇਹ ਸੀਸ ਤੁਰਕਨ ਸਿਰ ਭਵੈ I
ਦੇਹ ਕਟਨ ਮੈਂ ਦੂਖ ਨ ਮਾਨੋਂ I ਸਿਖੀ ਰਹੈ ਮੈਂ ਵਡ ਸੁਖ ਜਾਨੋ I ੧੫ I
“I don’t need my body if my Sikhi is intact and uneffected. I don’t mind then if I am cut apart. The body comes and goes but Sikhi is rare and if I lose it, I will not get it again.”
The Singhs accepted Bhai Sahib’s request and five Singhs from the Sangat rose and did the ardaas. They asked that Bhai Sahib’s Sikhi should remain intact. Guru Sahib always accepts his Singhs’ ardaas and thus this too was accepted. Bhai Sahib was now satisfied and he returned to his happy state and his face once again began to glow.
Festival at Divali
Some years passed. Bhai Mani Singh decided that he would organise a large gathering at Divali. He spoke with the Mughals and asked that the Sangat not be harassed when they were coming to Amritsar. The Mughals agreed but demanded that Bhai Sahib pay them 10 000 Rupees at the end of the festival. The Nawab of Lahore told Bhai Manee Singh that he need not fear, the Sangat would not be harassed and they could have 10 days for their festival.
Bhai Mani Singh sent letters to all the Khalsa Sangat and invited them to Amritsar for the Divali festival. The Khalsa arrived and set up camp. At this point, an enemy of the Khalsa, Lakhpat Rai spoke with the Nawab and said that when the Singhs would leave, they would certainly cause problems and chaos. They will certainly kill someone.
The Nawab was convinced to send his army to Amritsar. Lakhpat Rai was sent with the army so he could direct their actions. Lakhpat Rai was given instructions by the Nawab that if the Singhs did not cause trouble, he should not harass them and let them have their festival and leave. Just seeing the army, he expected the Singhs would behave.
Although Lakhpat Rai was given these instructions, he was still opposed to the Singhs and wanted some way to kill them. It was natural at any rate that sending the Mughal army would result in some trouble. Just like gunpowder and fire coming together always results in an explosion, the same way the meeting of the Mughal and Sikh armies also had to result in problems. The Singhs heard that the army had come from Lahore and wondered why they had come at the time of the festival. They suspected that an attack was imminent. The Singhs began to leave Amritsar. Some did not even do ishnaan and left immediately. They also turned back the Singhs who were on route to the festival.
If there was no Sangat, then of course there could be no money collected and thus the money owed to the Mughals could not be paid. The time for Bhai Manee Singh to be cut to pieces had arrived. He too understood this was the time for the Sangat’s words to come true. Most Singhs had left Sree Amritsar but some decided to stay with Bhai Sahib such as Bhai Bhoop Singh and Bhai Gulzaar Singh.
As the Singhs were leaving Amritsar, they made some attacks on the Mughals and killed some Chaudris (village heads) as well. When Lakhpat Rai arrived, he arrested all the Singhs he could find and blamed them for the trouble the other retreating Singhs had caused. Bhai Manee Singh and others were arrested and brought before the Nawab of Lahore. The Nawab demanded that Bhai Manee Singh pay the 10 000 Rupees he had promised. Bhai Manee Singh refused and said that he would not pay a cent since the government had broken the agreement by sending the army. Some rich businessmen and local Sikhs asked that they be allowed to pay the fine, but Bhai Sahib forbid them from doing so. Bhai Sahib said that even if he had the money, he still would not pay such an unjust fine. Bhai Sahib knew his time had arrived and decided that he would not show any weakness now. He was ready for shaheedee and ready to fulfil the words of the Sangat.
Bhai Mani Singh told the Nawab that he had no money and would pay nothing and that if he wanted, he could take his life. The Sangat was desperate to save Bhai Sahib’s life and brought sacks filled with money but Bhai Sahib refused to let the Sangat pay the fine. The Nawab was furious that Bhai Sahib would not agree even though money was available to pay. He called the Kazis and Mullahs and asked them what punishment Bhai Manee Singh should be given. They replied that there were only two options: either Bhai Sahib pay the fine and if not, he should accept Islam. The Nawab asked Bhai Mani Singh to embrace Islam and he would then be forgiven. Bhai Sahib replied, “Why would we leave the Sikh faith? We will never lose this. It shall remain with us until our final breath. What is this one life? Even if I had to sacrifice countless lives in return for Sikhi it would be a good bargain. We would lose countless lives for the Sikh faith.”
The Nawab then asked the Kazis the method by which the Singhs would be executed. The Kazi told the Mufti to announce the sentence that Bhai Manee Singh would be cut to pieces, joint by joint. The whole world should be shown how severe the punishment is for such an offence. Bhai Manee Singh had expected such a decision as the words of the Sangat would one day certainly be fulfilled.
Bhai Mani Singh was handed over to the executioners who took him to Lahore’s Nikhaas Chownk, where he was to be publicly executed. Bhai Sahib was seated and the executioner took his place as well. Bhai Sahib asked the executioner, “Which are the joints you will cut?” The executioner replied, “There are four: your two arms and two legs. I will cut your arms and legs from your torso.”
Bhai Mani Singh replied, “Executioner! You don’t understand the concept of “joint-by-joint” then. Don’t you know that the body has many many joints? You prepare yourself to cut and I will direct you where to cut myself. As I tell you, you will wield your knife there.”
Bhai Mani Singh put his hand forward and directed that his each finger be cut at the three joints. He himself began to recite baaNee and explained everything with signals. Each finger was cut in three and then the executioner arrived at the wrist, which was also cut off. The executioner wanted to then move to the shoulder, but Bhai Mani Singh thrust his elbow forward and demanded it be cut first. The elbow was cut and then the shoulder. Bhai Sahib then handed his left arm to the executioner and it too was cut in the same way, starting with the thumb. Next Bhai Sahib put his foot forward, which was also cut piece by piece. The executioner had now moved to Bhai Sahib’s knee, which was also cut. While this was happening Bhai Sahib was reciting Gurbanee and feeling no pain, his lips were uttering Sukhmanee Sahib
A Mughal soldier was watching all this and was shocked. He was having trouble watching all this. He was terrified. He began to fear that if such a person uttered a curse on his executioners or the rulers, it would certainly come to be. Only a very spiritually powerful person could undergo such an execution and if he cursed the Mughals, it would mean disaster. He withdrew his sword and with a single blow cut Bhai Sahib’s head from his body. Bhai Sahib’s Sikhee had remained intact through his final breaths.
Ratan Singh Bhangoo has said that Bhai Mani Singh became a Sardar amongst Shaheeds and fell at the waiting Sahibjadan. He ends of by saying
ਹੈ ਹੈ ਕਾਰ ਜਗਤ ਮੈਂ ਭਯੋ || ਜੈ ਜੈ ਕਾਰ ਸਿਖਨ ਮਨ ਠਯੋ ||