The Falcon – Baaz
By Sonia Dhami
The tenth master Guru Gobind Singh Ji had many titles bestowed upon him, one of the most beautiful was ‘Chittay baaja wala”, the keeper of the white falcon. Guru Ji held darbar (court) where he met Rajas and emperors as well as the poor and needy. Guru Ji is often portrayed in paintings with a sword draped along his side with royal plumes decorating his turban and holding a white bird of prey, the Baaz. The word Baaz is Sanskrit in origin and mostly it is agreed that it refers to a falcon as opposed to a hawk. If the historical anecdotes are to be believed then it is most likely that the 'white bird of prey' which the 10th Guru handled was a Gyrfalcon.
The Gyrfalcon is the only 'regularly white falcon' that exists and is also the largest. It would have been a very prized possession during the seventeenth century especially in Asia, for dignitaries and rich individuals to bring and sell or gift to royalty in India.
The gyrfalcon has a very sharp vision and can change their flight direction abruptly. With a wingspan of up to 63" (160 cm) and a body weight of up to 4.6 lb (2.1kg) it is indeed an impressive and powerful bird. Their diet is mainly birds and small animals like rabbits, mice & squirrels. The prey is normally taken on the wing, although ground catches are not uncommon. They use their sharp claws and bills to tear apart the prey. They build their nest of twigs and sticks high in the trees. The female lays 3-5 eggs which hatch in 4-5 weeks. The young ones are blind and helpless. They are fed by their parents for 5-6 weeks.
The Baaz features in a number of stories relating to Guru Gobind Singh. Here is one of them:
In 1699, Guru Sahib Ji created Amrit (holy nectar) for the purpose of creating the Khalsa brotherhood. A few drops of amrit fell from the iron cauldron, which were readily consumed by a few sparrows. The sparrows turned onto the Baaz and repeatedly assaulted him to such an extent that he had to take flight, followed vigorously by the sparrows. This incident showed the Sikhs that the amrit created by the Tenth Guru had immense power, after drinking a few drops a small sparrow not only had the courage to take on a bird of prey but harassed it until it took flight and fled.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji said “I will create my Khalsa of such courage and vigor that he will take on armies of the enemy, he will stand up for the poor and the downtrodden”
Sava Lakh say ek ladaho (One will confront a lakh and a quarter of the enemy)
In Gurbani, we find the following reference to Falcons/Baaz
SHALOK, FIRST MEHL: Tigers, hawks, falcons and eagles – the Lord could make them eat grass. And those animals which eat grass – He could make them eat meat. He could make them follow this way of life. He could raise dry land from the rivers, and turn the deserts into bottomless oceans. He could appoint a worm as king, and reduce an army to ashes. All beings and creatures live by breathing, but He could keep us alive, even without the breath. O Nanak, as it pleases the True Lord, He gives us sustenance. || 1 ||
salok mehlaa 1: seehaa baajaa chargaa kuhee-aa aynaa khavaalay ghaah. ghaahu khaan tinaa maas khavaalay ayhi chalaa-ay raah. nadee-aa vich tibay daykhaalay thalee karay asgaah. keerhaa thaap day-ay paatisaahee laskar karay su-aah. jaytay jee-a jeeveh lai saahaa jeevaalay taa ke asaah.
naanak ji-o ji-o sachay bhaavai ti-o ti-o day-ay giraah. ||1||