The Sikh faith is bookended by two gurus: Nanak, who founded the faith, and Gobind Singh who gave it its distinct character, transforming it from its pacifist origin to a distinctly martial spirit. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, spent his life fighting tyranny and marshalling his followers to stand up and be counted. The guru, often called the soldier-saint, was also a poet. His compositions can be found in the Dasam Granth. One such gem is today the motto of the Sikh regiment: Nishchay kar apni jeet karo - Determine to Win. It comes from the shabad, Deh Shiva bar mohe ahe, in which the guru prays to Almighty to grant him the courage to face enemies, to stay strong in the face of danger and succeed against odds.
From an early age I have felt much resonance with this shabad. When I am down and out I oft find myself reciting this to shore me up. I have taught it to my daughter and I gave it to Mehrunisa as her rallying cry in The Hunt for Kohinoor.
But the guru’s most soulful composition perhaps is the one he composed in the forest of Machhivara when he is separated from everyone, his sons martyred in the battle of Chamkaur, on a cold winter’s night: Mittar pyare nu. The guru is addressing his dear friend, God, and sharing confidences with him. It is stark, soulful, poignant and so full of compassion. Listen to this shabad sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and whether you understand Punjabi or not, let it wash over you.
Happy Gurpurab 2014! May you determine to win. Nishchay kar apni jeet karo.