The Guru known as Gobind Singh was the second to last of the 11 Gurus of the Sikh religion. The Guru is the leader and the most revered figure in Sikhism. Most Sikh holidays revolve around the births, martyrdoms, and life events of the Gurus.
Guru Gobind Singh became the leader of the Sikhs at the age of 9 in 1775 when his father, the ninth Guru, was beheaded by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam.
Gobind Singh’s three-decade reign determined the present shape of Sikhism today. Four of the religion’s holidays are directly related to Gobind Singh’s life:
1666: His birthday – on or around January 5
1675: The Martyrdom of his father Guru Tegh Bahadur – on or around November 24
1699: Vaisakhi – the Sikh New Year, on or around April 13, which honors the Guru’s establishment of the Khalsa, or “Community of the Pure”
1705: Maghi – remembers the “40 Immortals” who sacrificed their lives at the Battle of Muktsar
But perhaps the Guru’s most miraculous achievement was in choosing and preparing his successor, Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Granth Sahib became the 11th Guru in 1708 and is still the Sikh Guru today. Talk about a record for longevity!
Shortly before Gobind Singh’s death in 1708, he declared that he would be succeeded not by a person, but by the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, the writings of the ten Gurus of Sikhism. By taking the revolutionary step, Gobind Singh made the Guru immortal. Henceforth Sikhism could be guided by eternal principles instead of dependent on a mortal leader.
Sikhism is sometimes simplified as a cross between Hinduism and Islam, but is a unique philosophy. Sikhism rejects the Hindu caste system and idol worship. Unlike Islam, Sikhism does allow for images for adoration.
Sikhism has experienced conflicts with Islam ever since its inception in the mid-15th century. Sikhs have often sided with Hindus on political matters; Sikhism’s structure and culture has resulted in massive Sikh overrepresentation in the Indian armed forces. However in the late 20th century conflicts with Hindus increased as well.
Guru Gobind Singh died in October 1708, after a stab wound inflicted by a would-be assassin reopened while he was drawing a bow.
“The 12 months, the seasons, the dates, and all the days are blessed: each hour, minute, second, leads naturally to the True One.”
— Guru Granth Sahib