The story of Kesri Chand Pheel i.e. elephant (Pheel) of Kesri Chand is one of the most interesting and lesson-teaching story from Gur-Itihaas (Guru history). During one of the Anandpur Sahib battles involving the hill chieftains, the battle between king of Kahloor and Sikhs is of great importance. The following story is based mainly on accounts of battle written by Shiromini Kavi Sirimaan Maha Kavi Santokh Singh Chooramani.
With increasing power of Sikhs under the leadership of Siri Guru Gobind Singh, after the shahidi of Siri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the hill chieftains felt threatened. They thought that Siri Guru jee had imperialistic aims but they did not know that Guru Sahib never had such thoughts. Vaheguru has already bestowed Siri Guru jee with Abichal Raaj (eternal kingdom). Yes, Guru Sahib did set his eyes on uplifting the downtrodden people who had been living at the lowest step of ladder due to low caste, poverty and religion. Ones who became Sikhs of Guru pulled themselves out of poverty, and strains of low caste. Some high caste hill chieftains felt threatened by this.
Secondly, the hill chieftains felt jealous of royalty of Guru Sahib. Guru Sahibaan after Siri Guru Hargobind Sahib lived like kings and their grandeur, splendour and majesty overshadowed the hill chieftains. This resulted in many skirmishes between Sikhs and hill chieftains.
This story is from one of such battles between Sikhs and hill chieftains. The battle between Sikhs and Bhim Chand the king of Kahloor was on. Sikhs were besieged in their fort Lohgarh and army of hill chieftains had surrounded the fort. They could not get in as the fort was very strong and the Sikhs repulsed all their attacks on the fort.
GURU JEE HEARS ABOUT KESRI CHANDS PLEDGE
A Gupp-Halkaara (spy) came to Siri Guru Dasmesh jee and said, 'Prabh jeeo, whatever I have heard with my ears and seen with my eyes, I am going to narrate. Last night when the Sikhs attacked and destroyed one of the positions of the enemy, Bhim Chand was greatly agitated by this. He held a meeting at night while devouring dinner. Bhim Chand challenged his generals and warriors to do something to break into Lohgarh fort. At this time, Kesri Chand pledged that next day he would break open the main gate of the fort with his elephant. This elephant is one of the most powerful one and will be totally covered with steel shields. Kesri Chand has avowed that he will not show his face to his people if he fails to break the gate'.
The Gupp-Halkaara continued, �O Prabhu, the elephant is very powerful. He is so powerful that he can uproot a fully grown, big tree in just one strike. There is no other elephant more powerful than him. Please do something to stop this attack.�
THE ARRIVAL OF DUNI CHAND
Siri Satguru jee kept quiet after hearing this. He just closed his eyes and went into Naam trance. The Sikhs who were sitting around got very worried. Everyone just started thinking of the next move. All eyes were set on Satguru jee. Just then, the well-built, son of the Amritsar Masand - Duni Chand walked in. He was just huge. He was tall and his chest was wide and strong. Both of his legs were heavy like elephant. Duni Chand�s huge stature was not because of fat but by hard work and was pure musle. He worked out extensively and ate well and as a result of this he built a very powerful body. He used to visit sangat regularly and was known to accept heavy gaphaa (large quantity) of Karah Parshaad. He normally used to listen to what Guru Sahib said and obeyed hukams of Guru Sahib. He was the son of Salo Masand of Siri Amritsar Sahib. He had never been put to test by Guru Sahib and had recently been at Anandpur Sahib along with a jatha he brought from Siri Amritsar Sahib.
Siri Guru jee opened his eyes and his gaze of grace (Nadar-e-Karam) fell upon Duni Chand. Guru Sahib lovingly said, �Guru Ghar has an elephant like Duni Chand. What is the position of Kesri Chand�s elephant in front of Guru�s elephant � Duni Chand. Duni Chand the Guru�s elephant has obtained personal strength of the Guru. Who can then move him? Duni Chand will destroy the enemy elephant in no time. Tomorrow we will prove to the world that Guru�s elephant is stronger than Kesri Chand's elephant that�s going to attack us.�
DUNI CHAND�S REACTION
Everyone heard Siri Guru jee�s bachan and they all looked at Duni Chand. Duni Chand really looked very powerful to them. Siri Guru jee did these bachans and retired to his room. In few moments, everyone else too went to their chambers to retire. Duni Chand was stuck there and could not move. The idea of fighting the powerful and intoxicated elephant of Kesri Chand scared the wits out of his mind. Duni Chand, due to the sprouting of some bad karma from his past, could not bring faith on Guru Sahib�s bachans (sayings). His lips became dry and he was moving his tongue on his lips to make them wet. His breathing became heavy and fast. His cheeks and face became pale. He was thinking, what feat is Guru trying to play with him. He had such fear of dying at that time and without dying he died. His heart was overcome with fear.
He started thinking of getting out of this trouble. Till late night he kept on thinking and could not sleep. He was thinking that next morning Guru Sahib was going to send him to death chamber by sending him to fight that mad elephant. The best resolution was to get out of this place. He thought that many Sikhs too were probably feeling stuck in this battle and were fighting reluctantly.
DUNI CHAND PLEADS WITH BHAI DAYA SINGH
Duni Chand went over to see Bhai Daya Singh, late that night. He looked very worried and said, �what is the Guru doing to the sangat? So many Singhs have died. Everyday so many Singhs die fighting the enemy. I am not the only one who is worrying about dying. Many others too are thinking the same thing. I propose that all Sikhs should have a maslat (meeting) and decide on ceasefire and peaceful resolution to war. Send a peace proposal to Bhim Chand, first thing in the morning and this way bring peace in the valley. If Guru accepts this proposal, then alone will I stay here; otherwise, why should I just waste my life by dying like this?�
Bhai Daya Singh realized that this Sikh was faltering from the righteous path of Gurmat and addressed him as follows, �Guru is all powerful and will do only good. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen in the hukam of Vaheguru. The Turks are not greater than Guru. All are in the hukam of Guru and are just playing their parts as per hukam. Whatever hukam Guru Sahib is ordering, just obey the hukam. Whichever path Guru Sahib is asking you to walk on, just walk there.�
DUNI CHAND PLEADS WITH BHAI UDAY SINGH
Duni Chand did not like the reply of Bhai Daya Singh jee and then went over to Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh and other prominent Gursikhs but he got similar answer from all of them.
He became very desperate and went over to the dera of Bhai Uday Singh. He expressed his reasons of stress and worry to Bhai Uday Singh. His face had turned very pale out of worrying and he said, �why have we adopted our own destruction? What is the point of getting cheered by sangat when you are going to die? Use your intelligence and get out of here. You all will be saved if you listen to me; otherwise every one of us will perish here. I don�t want to die before the day of my death. What is my age? I don�t deserve to die so early. I will surely die tomorrow fighting that elephant but remember that you all too will die in the next few days. We still have time. Try to convince Guru Sahib to stop this war and if he does not listen to us, then we should resolve to leave this death-place and go home to our parents.�
Bhai Uday Singh realized that Duni Chand had been overcome by the fear of death. He spoke very lovingly to Duni Chand and tried to pacify him as follows, �O Duni Chand, why are you becoming so weak. From generations you have had Masandi in your home and you have been nurtured and grown by Guru himself. Your family has lived off Guru�s money for generations. Your family has been preaching Sikhi to Sikhs for generations. Just look at your family history and tradition, and then make a decision. How bad will it look if you back off. Our happiness and sorrow is with Guru Sahib alone. Guru Sahib has his hand on our heads. We need not fear. If Guru Sahib is asking you to fight the elephant, then he will bless you with the power of many lions. How can Guru Sahib let you down. If you are defeated, then would it not be the defeat of Guru Sahib himself too? How would he not keep your honour, which is essentially his own honour? When you will kill that elephant, imagine how much glory you will obtain. Guru Sahib will make you win giving you his power and then all the glory will be yours, all credit will go to you.�
Duni Chand got upset hearing Bhai Uday Singh�s reply and said, �What good will the honour be to me if I die in the hands of that mad elephant. I don�t understand why Guru Sahib has started all these fights. His father, our previous Guru, Siri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib jee did not do any battles. It was so good back then. Now ever since the Guru has gained some strength, he has started many battles. I collected so many Singhs from Majha region but I did not know that I had brought them here to die.
DUNI CHAND TALKS WITH BHAI GURBAKSH SINGH
Bhai Uday Singh tried to give him good advice again but all in vain. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was sitting near Bhai Uday Singh. He addressed Duni Chand lovingly as a brother, �O brother, why are you getting so weak minded? Have some faith and don�t be scared of death.�.
Hearing Bhai Gurbaksh Singh address him, Duni Chand right away moved closer to Bhai Sahib and said, �O Bhai Sahib, look what Guru have we established (He was under fake impression that he i.e. the masands had established Guru Sahib)? I brought so many Singhs from Majha region and now they are all going to die here. You and I have been so close for so many years. Great trouble has befallen upon me. You must help me to get out of it. Let�s get out of here. This Guru does not have any qualities of a true Guru. Let�s get out of here and go to Kartarpur to meet Dhir Mal and establish him a big Guru. Let�s take all sangat to him. Establishing Guru is in our hands. So much sangat is behind us and whomever we recognize our Guru will be accepted by sangat. You too come with me and you will get very important position there. Money will not be a problem either.�
Taking a pause, Duni Chand continued , �If you don�t listen to me, great calamities will befall upon all of you. Today the gate will fall and all people inside the fort will be put to sword or taken as prisoners and sent to Delhi. You too come with me. Singhs of Majha are with me.�
Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was very upset when he heard this and replied, �O stupid Duni Chand, the illusion (maya) of Guru Sahib is very powerful. You have fallen trap to the maya and have resolved to giving very bad name to your family and to your father Bhai Saalo. You yourself are going to fall in hell and you want to take me with you too. It would have been better if your mother had given birth to a daughter instead of a coward like you. You have uprooted the root of Masandgiri (the practice of masandi). So much Gurbani is being recited here. How will not Gurbani paath bring positive results? One last time, I am advising you not to give back to your Guru. Guru Sahib will never let you die. Have faith in Guru Sahib.�
DUNI CHAND PLANS ESCAPE
Unfortunately for Duni Chand, he stayed adamant and did not listen to advice of all prominent Gursikhs. He came back to his dera and collected all his friends and sangat that came with him. He addressed them on similar lines as the Sikhs previously described and convinced many stupid and faithless Sikhs to leave the fort with him. Duni Chand planned to climb down the high walls of the fort immediately and leave for their homes. He collected ropes from somewhere and kept the strongest one for himself since he had a very heavy body. Very carefully he and others started climbing down the high walls of the fort. Though Duni Chand was quite careful in climbing down the high wall still the rope broke and he fell down heavily on one of his legs and broke it. He felt great pain in his leg but out of fear of waking the enemy, he kept the sound low. His friends who had agreed to leave with him carried him away. They arranged for a chaarpaayee (Indian style bed i.e. manji) and carried him to Amritsar Sahib. All through the way, he cried �Haaye Haaye� due to the pain in his leg.
THE NEXT MORNING AT ANANDPUR SAHIB
Singhs got up at amritvela as usual and sat on their aasans, meditating on the divine Naam. Then wearing Shasters (weapons) and Khalsaayee Bastars (Khalsa attire), Singhs came in sangat and listened to Shabad Kirtan with full concentration. Guru Sahib arrived with baaz in his hand showering divine nectar on his sangat through his divine eyes. After the completion of the congregation, thundering sound of the Ranjit Nagara could be heard all around Lohgarh. The enthusiasm in Sangat was amazing to watch. Siri Guru jee sitting on his throne was gazing at the chardi kala Sangat and noticed that certain Singhs of Majha like Mattu Singh were missing.
Just as Guru Sahib was looking for missing Singhs, two Singhs came and informed Guru Sahib after doing Namaskaar, �Prabhu jeeo, Duni Chand has ran away taking his sangat with him. Since you had asked him to fight the powerful elephant, he was under great stress and has run away to his home, last night.�
Listening to this, Siri Satguru jee said, �Where can one run away from Kaal (death). Where he has run away, there too Kaal is on his head and will take him with him. Those who have run away from Guru, fearing battles and death, will stay in this fear all life. They will be engaged in battles all life and will get food only after fight.�
DUNI CHAND�S FATE IN SIRI AMRITSAR SAHIB
Having escaped death in Siri Anandpur Sahib, Duni Chand was now overcome with embarrassment in Amritsar. People would come to him and ask about the battle and Duni Chand felt embarrassed telling them that he had run away from war. People there yet did not know what Duni Chand and his companions had done. Many of his companions were already feeling remorse for letting down Guru Sahib and running away from war.
Duni Chand instructed his relatives to not let anyone meet him. He told them to tell people that he had hurt his leg and wanted to rest alone. He was feeling great pain and was doing Haai Haai all the time. One day he went out on nature�s call and was bitten by a Cobra. Within small amount of time he was gone. He died as a bemukh.
People talked ill about Duni Chand after he died. They condemned him for giving his back to the Guru. His family felt so embarrassed that they could not show their face in sangat. Two of his grandsons Anoop Singh and Saroop Singh felt so bad that they resolved to clean their family name and headed towards Siri Anandpur Sahib to fight alongside Guru Sahib. Many from Majha region joined them to fight for the sake of Guru Sahib.
ELEPHANT BRINGS DESTRUCTION IN THE BATTLEFIELD
On the other hand at Siri Anandpur Sahib, Bhim Chand and Kesri Chand were full of vigour and enthusiasm. They had avowed to clear Lohgarh of Sikhs in a single day. Many warriors were accompanied with them in fighting the Sikhs out of Lohgarh. The plan was to break the gate and fight the Sikhs out of there.
They brought the intoxicated elephant that was very big and powerful. He crushed whoever came his way. They covered the elephant in Sarbloh shields and only a small part of his trunk was left uncovered. Then they took a long sword and tied it to his trunk so firmly that it would not come off. The elephant was fully trained to bring destruction in the battlefield. When the elephant was fully ready it was released in the battlefield. It trumpeted and screamed loudly. The Sikhs and Guru Sahib inside the fort heard it. The Sikhs pleaded before Guru Sahib to do something to contain the new threat.
BHAI BACHITTER SINGN IS CHOSEN TO FIGHT THE ELEPHANT
Siri Guru jee had a special squad of chosen warriors as his personal guards. These Singhs were 25 in total and stayed extremely alert when on duty. These Singhs were tyaar-bar-tyaar with all their weapons on their bodies and Naam on their lips. They were the personal guards of Siri Guru jee. One of the Singhs out of these 25 Singhs was Bhai Bachitter Singh. He was a very formidable warrior and always dominated the enemy during a fight. He had a Rajput background. His face was adorned with large, manly handlebar moustache (Muchhail Chhail jaaniye � Sooraj Parkash). He always carried kirpan and dhal with him. He used to wear �Poshash Patt bahu Rang ki� i.e. different kind of attire mostly made of silk and for this reason Siri Guru jee used to call him �Bahuroopia� out of love.
Siri Guru jee looked at Bhai Bachitter Singh very lovingly and thought that this Singh is extremely faithful and always obeys Gur-hukam. He is very intelligent and is skilled in spear fighting. Siri Guru jee called him near and said, �Come O great warrior Bachitter Singh. We are going to give you the task of crushing the enemy elephant. You are my lion and I will crush the pride of that elephant and his owners through you. I will give you the powerful Nagni spear and you will crush that elephant�s pride with it. You will hit the elephant so strongly that he will never come towards our fort again and will run back crushing his own army. Keep your calm, don�t get worried and have no doubt. Don�t have fear of death and keep faith, and your good name will be known for generations.�
Hearing Siri Guru jee speak so kindly to him, Bhai Bachitter Singh was overcome with love and bairaag. He joined his hands and extremely respectfully said to Satguru jee, �Maharaj, if you place your hand on my head, I have nothing to fear. What to talk about this elephant, if you are on my side, I can kill Araavat, the elephant known to be of Raja Indra in Swarg.� (Araavat is the elephant of Raja Indra and is known for his prowess and strength. Raja Indra rides this elephant when in battlefield.)
Saying this Bachitter placed his head at the lotus feet of Satguru jee. Siri Guru jee was greatly pleased with Bhai Bachitter Singh and immediately dispatched a Singh to get the Nagni spear from his personal weapon treasure. This Nagni was extremely strong and was very expensive. It was adorned with jewels and was simply beautiful. In those days 17000 (probably worth a fortune today) had been spent on it and it looked like Baasak himself. Baasak is the king of Naags (Cobras) and his name appears in Ramkali ki Vaar twice. Satguru jee placed the Nagni in both of his hands and measured the weight and balance of the Nagni. Siri Guru jee showed Bhai Bachitter Singh many times how to strike the elephant in the head. Guru Sahib filled the already skilled mind of Bhai Bachitter Singh with all skills of spear fighting.
One more time, Bhai Bachitter Singh jee with extreme humility addressed Guru Sahib, �Maharaj, I don�t know victory and defeat. Where ever you send me, I will go and whatever task you ask me to do, I will do with best effort. If you are with me, I have no worry about dying. I just beg that you always stay on my head. I know you will help me beat this elephant just like Siri Krishna helped Bhim in beating Jarasandh and Siri Rama helped Sugreev in beating Bali.�
UDAY SINGH IS CHOSEN TO TAKE ON KESRI CHAND
Guru Sahib patted his back and he felt great energy in himself. He said fateh to all Singhs and got all his weapons. He had one hand on the Nagni spear that Guru Sahib gave him, and the other on his moustache. His lips were moving with Naam and his gait was full of confidence. He looked at his beautiful horse with love and saying �Vaheguru� he sat on it. Siri Guru jee and Sikhs like Bhai Uday Singh went on top of the fort to see the fight between Bhai Bachitter Singh and the intoxicated elephant.
Siri Guru jee and other Sikhs from the fort saw the intoxicated elephant. It was a frightful sight. He was totally covered in Sarbloh. The long kirpan that was fastened to his trunk looked like lightening when he moved his trunk. There were tens of thousands of warriors accompanying the elephant. Carrying latest weapons was the star warrior of the enemy army � Kesri Chand. Kesri Chand was reminding his soldiers of his vow to seize the fort today.
Alam Singh who was with Siri Guru jee on top of the fort heard Kesri Chand speak in vanity and expressed his thoughts to Guru Sahib, �Maharaj, if Kesri Chand can be killed today, it would make the enemy very weak. Then victory is ours for sure.�
Siri Guru jee responded saying that just like Bachitter Singh is going for the elephant, some Soorma Singh (warrior Singh) will take on Kesri Chand too. Siri Guru jee said that three times. When Maharaj said it the third time, Bhai Uday Singh who was sitting there humbly said, �Do kirpa on me Maharaj, I will fight this formidable enemy.�
Siri Guru jee was very pleased with Bhai Uday Singh and himself blessed him with one of the best swords from his personal treasure and sent him off to the battlefield to kill Kesri Chand.
BACHITTER SINGH IN THE BATTLEFIELD
The battle started in the morning. Singhs came out of the fort and fought the enemy who was trying to get near the fort. Many were shot before coming too close to the fort. Kesri Chand along with his elephant was moving closer to the fort. Thousands of men were following the elephant. Many Singhs and enemy soldiers died in the process. At one point, the elephant came close to the gate and the enemy were not very close to the elephant. This is the time when Bhai Bachitter Singh saw an opening to attack the elephant. He quickly ordered the gatekeeper to open the door.
Very swiftly, Bhai Bachitter Singh moved out and rushed towards the elephant. He rushed towards the elephant as a lion jumps on his victim. His eyes were red with Bir Rass and his countenance had a special laali (redness). He had such spirit in him at that time that it was hard to look at him. He stood up on the saddles of the horse and with all his might, using both hands and all his body weight, hit the elephant right in the head.
The Nagni, went through the Sarbloh shield and hit the head of the elephant. Maha Kavi Santokh Singh Chooramani in his book Sooraj Prakash has compared this hit in the head of elephant with the hit that Kartikay hit Himalay�s grandson in the battle of Kronch like snake king Basak went into the hole of a mountain seeing Garur coming toward it.
The elephant after it was hit with Nagni spear was as if thinking, �why did I come here�. Then Bhai Sahib pulled out the Nagni and this too caused great pain to the elephant. He cried out loud. He screamed and trumpeted and moved back to run backwards. From the back, Bhai Sahib hit him again with his spear and this greatly agitated the elephant. He briskly ran back and crushed many of his own men in doing so. Now the elephant also started swinging his sword and killed many more of his men. What need was there for Khalsa to kill the enemy when the elephant alone was killing many of them.
Even to this day, if a friend or a family members turns against his family, he is called �Jaswaran ko Haathi� i.e. the elephant who killed it�s own family.
Bhai Bachitter Singh returned to the fort feeling greatly satisfied that Guru Sahib had taken so much sewa from him. For obeying Guru Sahib hukam, his name will always remain alive amongst Khalsa for all ages to come. Guru Sahib personally patted his back and showered him with his Kirpa.
From this sakhi we learn many lessons:
1) If we do sewa of Guru Sahib as Bhai Bachitter Singh used to do by standing guard with utmost alertness, Guru Sahib would surely bless us with big sewa as Bhai Bachitter Singh was blessed with the sewa of fighting the mad elephant. Guru Sahib himself blesses us with sewa and himself ensures that we are able to execute the sewa to his satisfaction.
2) Even if we have the ability and power to do something, we should still be humble before Guru Sahib just as Bhai Bachitter Singh was. He was a great warrior but he still stayed humble and begged for strength to fight the elephant. �Gurmukh Nimaana hoh�.
Other LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THIS SAAKHI
1) Duni Chand had such a strong body but he was a coward. Having a strong body does not mean that one is a warrior too. To be a warrior, the most important requirement is a strong heart (Sher dil, brave heart).
2) If Guru Sahib orders us to lift a 20 kilo bucket, he makes sure that he gives us power to lift 40 kilo. What's required is faith in Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib asked Duni Chand to fight an elephant. Before asking him to do so, Guru Sahib must have given him power of many lions, as Bhai Uday Singh said. Alas, Duni Chand did not have the required faith.
3) If death is to come in obeying the hukam of Guru, then this death cannot be escaped by not obeying Guru Sahib's hukam. If only Duni Chand knew that his death was imminent and running away from Guru Sahib would not save him. Obeying Guru Sahib's hukam may have saved him from death and if he had died obeying Guru Sahib's hukam, he death would have been remembered as Shaheedi.
4) If we are incapable of obeying a hukam of Guru Sahib, we should at least not discredit that hukam like Duni Chand started badmouthing Guru Sahib's strategies. In today's life, if we are unable to obey a Hukam or keep a rehit, we should at least not try to prove that such and such rehit is not a rehit itself. If we can't keep Sarbloh Bibek, at least support the ones who keep it. If we can't keep amrit vela, at least don't try to prove that there is no such thing as amritvela (e.g. Ghagga trying to prove there is no such thing as Naam Abhyaas or amritvela).