Hunting in Sikhism

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Hargobind jee and Sher

Hunting is the practice of pursuing any moving living organism, usually wildlife or feral animals, by humans for food, recreation, safety or trade. Hunting is great practice for warfare, using all of its skills.

Sikh Gurus also engage in Hunting activities sue to their participation in wars which require lot of practice and also hunt furious animals which tease people. The Mongols were famous for there grand shikars that went on for weeks. Many of the skills learned on their hunts, aided them in conquering much of the world. Their descendants the Mughals who conquered India and the Panjab started their Empire in India when Babar brought those skills to India, along with their love of the Shikar, in the days of Guru Nanak. The muskets that the men of his son Humayun used to defeat the Rajputs (and gain the Koh-I-Nur) were some of the first guns used in warfare. The Mughal's even captured and trained Cheetahs to aid in their hunts.

Since the lion and the tiger are known as the most cunning and ferocious of beasts, one even being called the 'King of the Jungle', they have often been hunted as a test of one's courage.

Wearing their pelt or a necklace of their teeth or claws, were coveted as symbols of strength. The tiger, also said to be the beast downed by Guru Hargobind, has been hunted almost to extintion in India. Its bones are worth more than gold in China where wine fortified with tiger bone is thought to restore youthful virility.

Hunting Activities Recorded in History

Guru Har Gobind

Lion Hunting at Dhaulpur

Once when Guru Hargobind was hunting with Emperor Jahangir they stopped to spend the night at Bhamtipura village. The Sarpanch (head) of the village complained to the Emperor about a deadly loin who was stalking and killing the villagers of the area. The next morning saw the Emperor's men, in the usual manner of hunting lions, beating the bush to drive the beast towards the Eperor's party.
Some people have said that the Emperor was planning to have the lion kill the Guru during the hunt, but since its hard to manage a beast like that, it is more likely that with his being the emperor he could have just arranged for a little 'friendly fire incident by arranging for one of his musketmen to shoot the Guru as the Lion attacked.
But what history does record is that while the beaters were driving the lion towards the hunting party, the lion suddenly charged straight at Jahangir. Jahangir and his soldiers fired their guns and arrows at the charging beast, to no effect. The lion was almost upon Jahangir when Guru Hargobind jumped between Jahangir and lion and screamed out to the lion, "Ae kale yaman pehlan toon war kar lae kidre tere man di iccha baaki na reh jaye".
The lion leaped with all his strength right at the Guru who raised his shield and deflected the lion's charge to the side, as he brought his sword down on the beast all but cutting the lion in two. We will never know if the Emperor had really intended any harm to the Guru, perhaps his men were too frightened to reload their guns or just were in such awe of the Sikh Guru's bravery in saving their leader that they forgot any plans to harm him.
Jahangir no doubt was appreciative of the Guru for having saved his life, and certainly realised that the Guru was not just spirituality powerful but physically powerful as well.
After this incident Muchukund became more popular among the Sikhs.
Even though the Guru had saved his life, it wasn't long after they reached Gwalior, that the Guru ended up being held in confinement at Gwalior's fort. There are several stories with differing accounts of how the Guru came to be locked up at Gwalior. But everyone agrees about the end to the episode. Every year Guru Hargobind's sucess at freeing the 52 Rajas, that had been prisoners there for many years, is celebrated as Bandi Chhorh Divas.

Wild Pig Hunting at Wadali

The incident has been described in “Tareekh Guru Khalsa at pages 488 – 489). One landlord (farmer) came to Guru ji and reported that there was one very dangerous wild pig in his sugarcane field. Since last few months this was a burdon to people of this area, it detroyed their crops regularly. Many people tried to kill it but failed. Guru ji along with Panda Khan, Bidi Chand and Bhalan went for hunting this pig and killed it.

Guru Har Rai

At page 594 of Tareekh Khalsa it is mentioned that Shri Guru Hari Rai Ji used to do hunting, when required but he had issued special instructions to his men about not killing any animal. He used to catch the old, week and sick animals. He had kept hundreds of such wild animals, the proper care as far as their treatment and food was concerned used to be undertaken, and then the animals used to be left free in forest after some time. This is also supported by Mahima Prakash (Sakhi 167; pages 545-546, vol. 2), as it is written there:

“Pun Daiyal Shikaar chad aave, sikh surbir sang gur dhave, ban pasu pankhi khed bas kare, kou na maare, jeewat maare, grahe mo rakh palana hoi, khan pan dukh tine na koi, bhaye ikatra kaii lakh hazaar, pasu pankhi bagh bilian siar.”

The writer of Mahima Prakash is of opinion that whenever Guru ji killed some animal it was for relieving animals from extreme pains or for spirtual freedom of the animals considering their good deed during previous births.

“Jab kabhu Shikar kash mare, mano mukat karta ko mare”

Once Guru ji saw a rattle snake who was in extreme pain and in old age. He was being eaten by ants and was shaking his head and tail with pain — as if he was requesting Guru ji for help. Guru ji killed this snake with arrow and relieved him from pains as well as cycle of death and birth (Mahima prakash, vol. 2 page 563).

Guru Gobind Singh

In autobiography Bachitar Natak, Guru Gobind Singh described about his hunting practice:

ਭਾਂਤਿ ਭਾਂਤਿ ਬਨਿ ਖੇਲ ਸਿਕਾਰਾ ॥ ਮਾਰੇ ਰੀਛ ਰੋਝ ਝੰਖਾਰਾ ॥੧॥
I went hunting various kinds of animals in the forest and killed bears, nilgais (blue bulls) and elks.1.
(Bachitar Natak: ਅਸਟਮੋ ਧਿਆਇ, ਅਥ ਰਾਜ ਸਾਜ ਕਥਨੰ)

It is mentioned that Guru Gobind Singh had killed:

  1. Bears
  2. Elks
  3. Bulls
  4. Deers
  5. Wild Boars

All these animals are related to destruction of agriculture or danger to pedestrians. One can imagine the population of these animals and their spread during guru's period.

Famous hunting expeditions by Guru Gobind Singh are:

Killing Lion at Bhangani

Gurdwara Bhangani Sahib

Guru Gobind Singh also killed a lion during the Battle of Bhagani. A famous Gurwara is named to remember that event, Gurdwara Shergah is situated in himanchal pardesh. The villagers from the nearby village approached GURU SAHIB and made a humble request to save their lives from a man eater lion, who had killed many villagers as no one had dared to face and kill the lion till now. On the request of this villager SHRI GURU GOBIND RAI (SHRI GURU GOBIND SINGH JI) agreed to help them. GURU SAHIB reached under the tree of Beheda (Still present inside the campus of GURUDWARA SHERGAH SAHIB) where the lion was, in his habitat (Bhoran Sahib). It was very old and dangerous. When GURU SAHIB challanged the lion he roared. The birds on the trees flew away, the wild animals ran away. In the flash a of second, the lion jumped and made a deadly attack on GURU JI. GURU JI halted him, his left arm on the shield (dhal), by plunging his sword into the lion in such a way that the lion was cut into two pieces from the middle.

Killing Bull at Bathinda

There was a Cannibal living near Bathinda, who use to tease people, he met guru and exchange gosphel, he was hungry. People of the villages were disturbed from a Bull. GURU SAHIB send some Singhs to get that Bullock. When Singhs reached village NatBanger they asked people about that bull. People laughingly told that bull was sitting in water. Bhai Mailagar Singh went to him and bring it to bathinda Bull reached Fort in front of GURU SAHIB. GURU SAHIB asked Bhai Mailagar Singh to cut Bull's head in one attempt of sword. Bhai Sahib did the same way. The Bull meat is served to a Cannibal who was hungry. A Gurdwara Commemorates this incident

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