Zafarnama : Epistle of Victory

The second fortnight of December 1704 was the most difficult and critical period in the life of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It was during this period that forty Majhail Sikhs had deserted the Guru, the city of Anandpur had to be vacated, the Sarsa floods had brought havoc, Guru Ji's family had become separated, his two elder sons had died before his own eyes and the Guru himself had to escape from Chamkaur towards Machhi- wara jungle. Even at Machhiwara he was surrounded by enemy forces from all sides.

In the jungle Guru Ji met two Pathan brothers Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan who were dressed in blue, he asked them to prepare similar clothes for him. In the mean time Guru Ji sent for one of his followers who lived near by called Sayyad Inayat Khan. Guru Ji entrusted him with a letter that wasaddressed to Emperor Aurangzeb for safe keeping. Using the blue garments Guru Ji disguised himself as Uch-Ka-Pir (a holy man from Uch) and with his companions Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan on one side and Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Mann Singh on the other they set of towards the village of Ghulal.


They had gone hardly one mile when they were stopped by an army patrol and presented to the commander, he was not satisfied with their explanation. He sent word out to find anyone who knew and could identify the fakir (holy man). Sayyad Inayat Khan got word of this and came to the army camp. Sayyad Ji met the commander Daler Khan Garh Shankria, although he recognised Guru Ji he told him that this was indeed Uch-Ka-Pir and that holding up such a pious person was a sin. The commander was unnerved and went to the Pir with 500Rs as a present and sincere apologies for his detention and that he was free to go.

The Khan brothers and the Singhs carried Guru Ji on a manji as was the fashion, and reached the village of Ghulal. It was at Ghulal village that Guru Ji asked for the letter that was in the safe hands of Sayyad Khan.This letter was delivered under instruction of Guru Ji by Dhaya Singh Ji to the Emperor Aurangzeb (this first letter is not the one know as Zafarnama).


The contents of this letter written in Persian reads as follows :

NAMEH GURU GOBIND SINGH BA AURANGZEB (Letter from Guru Gobind Singh to Aurangzeb)


In the name of the Lord of Sword and Axe.
In the name of the Lord of Arrow and Shield.

In the name of the Lord of Men of Heroic Deeds.
In the name of the Lord of Speeding Steeds.
He, who has given you kingship, has entrusted to me the task of defending Dharam and Righteousness.
Your frantic activities are confined to deceit and diplomacy, whereas my efforts are based on faith and truth.
The name of Aurangzeb hardly behoves you, for kings should not indulge in deceiving others.
Your rosary is nothing more then a collection of beads and thread.
Your are employing the beads as a snare and the thread as a net to enslave others
You kneaded the earthly remains of your father with evil deeds and the blood of your brothers.
And with that mud you built your house to live in.
I will now storm you like rain water and deal with you with with sharp edges of steel arms.
You have met with failure in the Deccan and are coming back thirsty from Mewar.
If you now turn you eyes to this side (the north) then you will see
your thirst and parched throat set right.
I will place fire under your feet and will not allow you to drink water
of the Punjab.
What if the sly fox has killed under deception two cubs of a lion.
The lion itself is alive and will wreak vengeance.
I do not now ask you for anything in the name of your Allah and your scripture.
I have no faith in your word. Only the sword will now serve its purpose.
Even if you claim to be a clever leopard, I will see that the lion
remains outside your net.
If even you have to talk to me, i will show you the path which is pious and straight.
Let the armies on both sides draw up opposite to each other.
And let there be a distance of three miles between them.
Then i will come alone and you may come along with horsemen.
You have eaten fruits and enjoyed unusual gifts but have never
met warriors personally.
Come forward yourself armed with a sword and axe for a duel and not kill innocent people of Gods creation.


This letter clearly shows that it was written from Machhiwara after the battle of Chamkaur and after Guru ji had sacrificed his two elder sons in the battle field. It also shows that although guru Ji had suffered heavy losses in men and materials he was not in any way feeling vanquished but was full of confidence, faith and courage to chastise and reprimand the Emperor for is deceitful activities.

Bhai Dhaya Singh had taken this letter to Aurangzeb on December 26th 1704. By the time he arrived Aurangzeb and been briefed on Guru Ji being uprooted from Anandpur Sahib. He felt that an injustice had been done particularly when he had been promised safe passage from Anandpur on solemn oaths on the Koran.

The emperor assured Bhai Dhaya Singh that he would do justice and that Guru Ji may be requested to meet him in the Deccan. Bhai Dhaya Singh shrewdly replied that a written letter would have a more immediate effect. The Emperor agreed and sent two messengers with Bhai ji and the letter. Bhai Dhaya Singh reached Guru Ji and Dina in March 1705, a return journey of 900 miles that lasted three months.

Guru Ji heard from Bhai Dhaya Singh the sympathetic and remorseful mood in which the Emperor had written the reply. However there was mixed feelings of magnanimity and seriousness on guru Ji's face as he thought the Emperor was not fully satisfied about his grievances. Guru Ji decieded to send another even more detailed letter to the Emperor in which he neither promised or refused to meet him in the Deccan.


'Zafarnama' by Guru Gobind Singh Ji



O Master of miracles, O Eternal and Beneficent One,
O The Provider of our sustenance, O our Deliverer, Bestower of Grace and Mercy! (1)


O Giver of Bliss, O Great Pardoner, Who holds me by the Hand,
O Remitter of sins, O Bestower of daily bread, O Charmer of our hearts! (2)

  O King of kings, O Giver of Good, O guidance of the Way.
O One without colour, without form, without equal! (3)
  He who has no material possessions, no army, no ground to stand upon,
Him too, Thou blessest with Heavenly Bliss. (4)

Separate from the world, yet most powerful, the Presence, Who givest Thy gifts as if Thou wert here before us. (5)

  O Thou Pure One, Our Cherisher, our only Giver.
O Thou Merciful One, who givest to every land! (6)
  O Greatest of the great, Thou art the God of every land:
Of Perfect Beauty, Merciful and Giver of sustenance! (7)
  O Master of intellect, O Embellisher of the meek,
O Refuge of the poor, O Destroyer of the tyrant! (8)
  O Protector of the faith, Fountain of eloquence,
O Knower of the Real, O Author of revelation! (9)
  O Master of intelligence, O Appreciator of Wisdom,
O Diviner of secrets, O Omnipresent God! (10)
  Thou knowest all that happens in the world,
And Thou resolvest all its problems and doubts. (11)

O Thou all-knowing God, O Great One,
Thou alone art the organiser of our lives. (12)


  The Memorandum to Aurangzeb
  I have no faith in thy oaths,
Even if thou bringest in God as thy witness. (13)

I haven't even an iota of trust in thee,
For, all thy ministers and thy courtiers are liars. (14)

  He who puts faith in thy oath on the Koran,
He in the end, comes to ruin. (15)
  But, beware that the insolent crow
Can lay not its hands upon one whose protection is Huma, the Bird of Heaven. (16)

He who seeks the refuge of the tiger
Can he be harmed by a goat, a deer or a buffalo? (17)

  Had I vowed even secretly on the book of my faith,
I would have withdrawn infantry and cavalry from the field. (18)
  And, what could my forty men do (at Chamkaur),
When a hundred thousand men, unawares, pounced upon them? (19)
  The oath breakers attacked them, of a sudden, with swords, arrows and guns. (20)

I had, perforce to join battle with thy hosts,
And I too fought with the muskets and arrows as best as I could. (21)


When an affair is past every other remedy,
It is righteous, indeed to unsheathe the sword. (22)


Hadn't I taken thee to thy word upon the Koran,
I wouldn't have chosen the path I did. (23)

  I knew not that thy men were crafty and deceitful like a fox.
Else I wouldn't have driven myself to this state. (24)

He who swears to me on the Koran
Ought not to have killed or imprisoned my men. (25)

  Thy army dressed like blue bottles,
Charged us, of a sudden, with a loud bang. (26)
  But they who aggressed not against us
Were left unhurt, unmolested by us. (28)

But, he who advanced from thy ranks beyond his defenses,
Was hit with such deadly aim of my single arrow that he was deluged in blood. (27)

  When I witnessed thy general, Nahar Khan, advancing for war,
I gave him the taste of a single deadly arrow. (29)

And many of his men who boasted of their valour,
Fled the battlefield, in utter shame. (30)


Then advanced another one of Afghan blood,
Rushing forth like flood, like a gun-ball, or a deadly arrow. (31)


He made many assaults with great courage,
Some with conscious skill, and others like mad. (32)


The more he attacked, the more he was mauled,
And then while killing two of my ranks,
He, too, fell dead in the cold dust. (33)

  But the cowardly and contemptible Khawaja came not forth like a man,
And hid himself behind a wall. (34)

Had I but seen his face,
I couldn't but have helped him too with an arrow. (35)

  At last, many on their side fell on the ground
Hit by the arrows and the death dealing bullets. (36)
  There was, indeed, an overpowering rain of these,
And the earth turned red like the lalla flower. (37)
  Torn heads and legs lay in heaps,
As if the earth was covered with balls and sticks. (38)
  The arrows whizzed, the bows twanged,
And, it brought forth from the earth only cries and yells. (39)
  There were other dreadful, vengeful noises too, of weapons and men,
When men, bravest of the brave, battled like mad. (40)

But, what kind of chivalry is this in war,
That countless hosts should pounce upon a mere forty of us, (41)


When the lamp of the world veiled itself,
And the queen of night came forth with all her splendor.(42)


He who trusts, however, in an oath on God,
His Protection also in He; in need, He shows the Path. (43)


So, not even a hair of mine was touched, nor my body suffered,
For the God, the Destroyer of my enemies, Himself pulled me out to safety. (44)

  I knew not that you, O man, were a perjurer,
And a worshipper of self, and a breaker of faith. (45)
  Nay, you keep no faith, nor mind religion,
Nor know God, nor believe in Mohammed. (46)

He who observes the tenant's of his faith,
He makes a promise but never to break it. (47)

  You have no idea of what an oath on the Koran is:
Nay, you have no faith in the One God. (48)

Now if you were to swear a hundred times on the Koran,
I'd regard not thy word, not an iota of it. (49)


Had you ever a mind to keep thy faith,
You would have taken courage and come to me. (50)

  From when you gave your word,
Swearing in the name of God's Word, it was incumbent on you to keep your faith. (51)
  If your majesty were to be present here before me,
I would have with all my heart posted you with your treachery. (52)

Do now what is enjoined upon you,
And stick to your written and plighted word. (53)

  The written word and the verbal promise of your envoy,
Both, should have been fulfilled by you. (54)
  He alone is a man who keeps his word:
Not that he has one thing in the heart, and another on the tongue. (55)
  Your promise was to honour the Qazi's word,
If that be true, then come thou to me. (56)

If you want to seal thy promise on the Koran,
I would send the document for sure to thee. (57)

  If only you were gracious enough to come to the village of Kangar,
We could then see each other face to face. (58)

On the way, there will be no danger to your life,
For, the whole tribe of Brars accepts my command. (59)


Come to me that we may converse with each other,
And I may utter some kind words to thee. (60)

  I'd send thee a horseman like one in a thousand,
Who will conduct thee safe to my home. (61)

I'm a slave of the King of kings,
And ready to obey His Call with all my heart. (62)


If He were to order me thus,
I'd with utmost pleasure present myself to thee. (63)

  And if you are a believer in One God,
Tarry not in what I ask you to do. (64)

It is incumbent upon you to recognise the God,
For He told you not to create strife in the world. (65)

  You occupy the throne, in the name of God, the Sovereign of all creation,
But strange is thy justice, stranger thy attributes! (66)

What sense of discrimination is this? What regard for religion?
O fie on such a sovereignty! Fie a hundred times!! (67)


Stranger than strange are thy decrees, O king,
But beware that broken pledges boomerang on those who make them. (68)

  Shed not recklessly the blood of another with thy sword,
Lest the Sword on High falls upon thy neck. (69)
  O man, beware and fear thy God,
For, though flattery or cajolery He can be deceived not. (70)
  He, the King of kings, fears no one,
And is the True Sovereign of the earth and heaven. (71)
  God is the Master of the earth and the sky:
He is the Creator of all men, all places. (72)

He it is who Creates all - from the feeble ant to the powerful elephant,
And is the Embellisher of the meek and Destroyer of the reckless. (73)


His name is: "Protector of the meek".
And Himself He is dependent upon no ones support or obligation. (74)

  He has no twist in Him, nor doubt.
And, He shows man the Way to Redemption and Release. (75)

You are bound, indeed by your word on the Koran,
Let, therefore, the matter come to a good end, as is your promise. (76)

  It is but meeting that you act wisely,
And be discreet in all that you do. (77)

What, if you have killed my four tender sons,
When I, like a coiled snake remain behind. (78)

  It is not brave to put out a few sparks,
And stir up a fire to rage all the more! (79)
  What a beautiful thought has Firdausi, the sweet-tongued poet, expressed:
"He who acts in haste, plays the devil". (80)

When you and I will, both repair to the Court of God,
You will bear witness to what you did unto me. (81)

  But, if you will forget even this,
Then, God on High will also forget you from His Mind. (82)
  God will reward you well for your misdeed,
Which you launched with all your recklessness! (83)
  This is the keeping of faith: this the act of goodness,
To put God above the love of life. (84)
  I believe not that you know God,
Since, from you have come only tyrannous acts. (85)
  The Beneficent God also will know thee not,
And will welcome not thee with all thy riches. (86)

If now you swear a hundred times on the Koran,
I will not trust you even for a moment. (87)

  I will enter not your presence, nor travel on the same road,
Even if you so ordain, I would oblige you not. (88)
  O Aurangzeb, king of kings, fortunate are you,
An expert swordsman and a horseman too: (89)

Handsome is your person and your intellect high,
Master of the lands, ruler and emperor. (90)

  A skilled wielder of the sword and clever in administration,
A master-warrior and a man of charitable disposition. (91)
  You grant riches and lands in charity,
O one of handsome body and brilliant mind. (92)
  Great is your munificence, in war you are like a mountain,
Of angelic disposition, your splendor is like that of Pleiades. (93)
  You are the king of kings, ornament of the throne of the world:
Master of the world, but far from religion! (94)

I warred with the idol-worshipping hill chiefs,
For, I am the breaker of idols and they their worshippers. (95)

  Beware, the world keeps not faith with any:
He who rises also falls and comes to grief. (96)

And look also at the miracle that is God,
That He may destroy a whole host through a single man! (97)


What can an enemy do to him whose friend is God?
For the function of the Great Bestower is: To Bestow. (98)


He grants Deliverance and shows also the Way.
And He teaches the tongue to utter His praises, in love. (99)


In the time of need, He blinds the enemy,
And protects the helpless from all injury and harm. (100)

  And he who acts in good faith,
On him, the Merciful One, rains His Mercy. (101)
  He who serves Him with all his heart,
God blesses him with the Peace of Soul. (102)
  What harm can an enemy do to him,
On whom is the Please of God, our Supreme Guide. (103)
  The Creator-Lord is ever his refuge,
ven if tens of thousands of hosts were to proceed against him. (104)
  If you have the pride of your army and riches,
I bank upon the Praise of God, the Almighty. (105)
  You are proud of your empire and material possessions,
hile I am proud of the Refuge of God, the Immortal. (106)
  Be not heedless: for the world lasts but a few days,
And man may leave it, one knows not when. (107)

Look at the ever changing faithless world:
And see what happens to every house, every denizen. (108)

  If you are strong, torture not the weak,
And thus lay not the axe to thy empire. (109)
  If the One God is one's Friend, what harm can the enemy do,
Even if he multiplies himself a hundred times? (110)
  A thousand times let an enemy assault him,
And yet touch not even a hair on his head. (111)


This letter is called "Zafarnama" - the Epistle of Victory. Written in Persian verse it was sent from dina in 1705 through two Sikhs, Bhai Dhaya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh. It was intentionally not entrusted to the Emperors messangers because of the nature of the contents and because Guru Ji wanted to know the immediate reaction on reading it from his Sikhs.

Although Bhai Dhaya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh traveled with great speed they could not get an early audience with the emperor. They stayed at the house of Bhai Jetha Ji. It was some months before the Sikhs met with the Emperor.Guru Ji had instructed Bhai Dhaya Singh to speak boldly and fearlessly before Aurangzeb when handing the letterthis he did. The Emperor read the letter and fwlt that the Guru was a highly intelligent, truthful and fearless warrior. He was nearly 91 years of age and his body strated to tremble from feelings of remorse and regretfulness at what he had done in his life time. Again he put pen to paper and wrote a letter to Guru Ji stating his inability to come to the north and requesting that Guru Ji meet him in Ahmadnagar at his earliest convenience. The letter was sent through royal messengers.

The Emperors peace of mind had been shaken, he wrote another letter to his sons in which he states "i do not know who I am, where i am, where i am to go and what will happen to a sinful person like me. Many like me have passed away wasting their lives. Allha was in my heart but my blind eyes failed to see him. I do not know how i will be received in Allahs court. I do not have any hope for my future, I have committed many sins and do not know what punishments will be awarded to me in return".

The Zafarnama had a demoralising effect on emperor Aurangzeb who saw his end looming over the horizon and his future appeared very bleak. He saw Guru Gobind Singh Ji as his only hope who could show him the right and truthful path, as hinted by Guru ji in his epistle. Although he had greatly wronged the Guru he knew him to be a man of God and wanted to meet wth the Guru personally to seek redemption. He issued instructions to his Governers to withdraw all orders against Guru Ji. He instructed his minister Munim Khan to make arrangements for the safe passage of the guru when he came to meet him.

Guru Ji was not willing to to go to Delhi yet and instead stopped outside the town of Sabo Ki Talwandi. According to Sikh chronologists it was at Sabo Ki Talwandi that Guru Gobind Singh Ji untied his waist band after a period of nearly eighteen months and breathed a sigh of relief. This is why Sabo Ki Talwandi is known as Damdama Sahib (place of rest). It was at Damdama Sahib that Mata Sundri Ji learned the fate of the four Sahibzaday and of Mata Gujri Ji. It was also at Damdama Sahib that Guru Gobind Singh Ji re-wrote the Adh Guru Granth Sahib Ji from memory and added the Gurbani (Guru's writings) of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji.

Guru Ji received the letter from Aurangzeb and after a period of rest deceided to meet with the emperor, hence Guru Ji's decision to move to the Deccan. Guru Ji had no enemity against Islam, he did not habour any ill will against Muslims, Guru Sahib Ji saw all with one gaze, a good many Muslims had sided with his cause against the Moghals. Now that Aurangzeb had invited Guru Ji with due humility and promised to do justice against those who had resorted to barbarous acts, Guru Ji felt justified in agreeing to meet the emperor in view of the latters old age.

By the time Guru Ji had entered Rajisthan news was conveyed to him that the emperor had died. Historical records as recorded by Bhai Santokh Singh show that the emperor had lost all appitite and power of digestion and could not expel any waste, whatever he took acted as poison in his body. He was in great pain and torment and he remained in this condition for several days, terrified, as it were, by angels of death. Born in 1616, Aurangzeb lived for 91 years, his last Will (see below) confirms the degenerated state of his physical and mental health.

The will was recorded by Maulvi Hamid-ud Din in chapter 8 of his hand written book in Persian about the life of Aurangzeb.

There is no doubt that I have been the emperor of India and I have ruled over this country. But I am sorry to say that I have not been able to do a good deed in my lifetime. My inner soul is cursing me as a sinner. But know it is of no avail. It is my wish that my last rites be performed by my dear son Azam, nobody else should touch my body.
My servent, Aya Beg, has my purse in which I have cearfully kept my earnings of 4 Rs and 2 annas. In my spare time I have been writing the Koran and stitching caps. It was by selling the caps that I made an hounest earning of 4 Rs and 2 annas. My coffin should be purchase with this amount. No other money should be spent for covering the body of a sinner. This is my dying wish.
By selling the copies of the koran I collected 305 Rs. That money is also with Aya Beg. It is my will that poor Mohammedans should be fed with sweet rice purchased by this money.
All my articles - clothes, ink stand, pens and books should be given to my son Azam. The labour charges for digging my grave will be paid by Prince Azam.
My grave should be dug in a dense forest. When I am buried my face should remain uncovered. Do not bury my face in earth. I want to present myself to Allah with a naked face. I am told whoever goes to the supreme court with a naked face will have his sins forgiven.
My coffin should be made of thick Khaddar. Do not place a costly shawl on the corpse. The route of my funeral should not be showered with flowers. No one should be permitted to place any flowers on my body. No music should be played or sung, I hate music.
No tomb should be built for me. Only a chabootra or platform may be erected.
I have not been able to pay the salaries of my soldiers and my personal servents for several months. I bequeath that after my death at least my personal servents be paid in full as the treasury is empty. Niamat Ali has served my very faithfully he has cleaned my body and has never let my bed remain dirty.
No mausoleum should be raised in my memory. No stone with my name should be placed at my grave. There should be no trees planted near the grave. A sinner like me does not deserve the protection of a shady tree.
My son, Azam has the authority to rule from the throne of Delhi. Kam Bakhsh should be entrusted with the governance of Bijapur and Golconda States.
Allah should not make anyone an emperor, the most unfortunate person is he who is an emperor. My sins should not be mentioned in any social gathering. No story of my life should be told to anyone.

Translated from an historical article published by S.Ajmer Singh MA in the Fateh weekly Nov. 7th, 1976.


(According to wishes of the emperor, his grave made of 'kuccha' bricks can still be seen in Aurangabad).