This water sculpture design composition is inspired by the historical event of the crossing of the Sarsa Nadi by Guru Gobind Singh with his family and other followers after they left the Anandpur Sahib. Courtesy: Sonia Dhami design composition
During the fifth battle of Anandpur, the Mughal Armies under Wazir Khan and Zabardast Khan alongwith the Hill Raja’s, laid siege to the fort, after they realized that they could not exterminate the Sikhs in a direct fight. With supplies running out and provisions steadily dwindling, the Sikhs made successful night sallies and seized supplies of the enemy. The blockade continued for many months. The Guru’s Sikhs endured every pain and hardship to survive, eating even the bark and leaves of trees.
The enemy made several proposals for the evacuation of the fort, but Guru Gobind Singh knew their real intentions and rejected them saying-
“The hill men are idolaters and false. Their intellect is like that of the stones they worship. There is no reliance to be placed on their promises. The Turks are equally evil. Their very falsehood will destroy them. The Khalsa shall extend and wreck vengeance on its enemies.”
The Guru was thus able to prevail upon the Sikhs to bear hardship for 7 long months.
At last an autograph letter arrived from Emperor Aurangzeb to the Guru – “I have sworn to the Quran not to harm thee if I do, may I not find a place in God’s court here after. Cease warfare and come to me. If thou desire not to come hither, then go wheresoever thou pleases.”
The Sikhs were by now impatient to leave the fort. Precious animals like the “Prasadi” elephant had also died for want of the food and water. In this mission the Guru’s mother also tried to prevail upon him, since she could not see the Sikh’s dying in such a state. The Guru was now left with no option but to leave Anandpur Sahib at last. The evacuation began at the dead of night – Dec 20-21, 1704. The entire camp was divided into two parts. The Guru’s mother, 2 wives, two youngest sons and other women of the household together with all the manuscripts prepared by the Guru and his cholars left in the first batch. Ude Singh, the bravest commander of the Guru, was put in charge of this party at the head of two hundred horsemen. They were to follow the direct road to Ropar, and he would join them on the way as soon as possible. It was raining and a swift cold wind was blowing.
The river Sarsa, a tributary of the Satluj, usually almost dry had come down as a mighty torrent after heavy rains in the hills. Then it could not be crossed. There was nothing for it but to wait on the banks till it ran itself out and went down. The first batch waited on its banks for the Guru’s arrival.
Guru Gobind Singh left soon afterwards. He was accompanied by his two elder sons and about four hundred men. He had not yet reached the banks of Sarsa when he was attacked by a strong contingent under Wazir Khan. When the Guru was heavily engaged, another detachment of the Mughals delivered on assault on the first batch halting on the river bank. In the midst of rain, cold darkness and fierce fighting, complete confusion prevailed among the Sikhs. Ude Singh and most of his warriors lost their lives. Some daring Sikhs pushed their horses into the swirling waters forming foam against stones and pebbles and carried the Guru’s family safely across 400 meters, the width of the river. But in this attempt all the property and manuscripts were washed away. The Guru’s household was further divided into two groups. The Guru’s mother and his two younger sons who could not walk or ride for long were taken by Gangu, an old domestic servant of the family to his native village Saheri. Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devan were hurriedly led towards Ambala in the disguise of rustic women.
The Guru – suffered heavily. Having put up a tough fight he also threw his horse into the swollen current. Most of his men had been killed in the battle and many perished in the passage of the river. When he reached the other bank, he was left with his two elder sons, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, the five beloved ones, and thirty-five other Sikhs, 43 souls in all out of about 400.