Did the Sikh Gurus go hunting? If so, what was the purpose?
In short the Guru Ji went hunting for two main reasons, one to defend the locals of dangerous man-eating animals or to grant “mukti” (salvation) to particular souls entrapped in the body of animals whose karmic circle needed breaking. The former reason is the main reason for the Sikh Gurus to go hunting. Who can offer salvation to a soul? The answer is – only the True Guru.
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and Guru Gobind Sahib Ji went hunting, not for pleasure – for the Guru’s were way above the pleasures of this world – or the need to satisfy their taste buds, they were above this , it was to instill a sense of pride and self confidence in the downtrodden people of India who for centuries had groveled to any invader who happen to come their way, and in the process to settle long overdue ‘accounts’, to release the souls of the poor unfortunate animals who may have wronged in the past, to grant them Mukti (salvation).
There is a story of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who sent out his falcon to hunt an animal, once caught Guru Ji watched as the baaj (falcon) tore into the animals flesh. Asked by one of his Sikhs what was the reasoning behind this Guru Ji stated that in a previous life the animal had borrowed some money from the baaj and swore on Akaal Purkhs name that he would pay it back, he never did, now it was pay back time. There are many instances like this which illustrate that the Gurus were not hunting for meat but to save these souls from the continuous cycle of birth and death. In the Hukamnama of Sri Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji there are clear cut instructions prohibiting the eating of meat, fish etc.
The Hukamnama clearly states:
ਮਾਸ ਮਛੀ ਦੇ ਨੇੜੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਆਵਣਾ |
“Do not come near (i.e. consume) meat and fish.”
When Guru Nanak in his sixth form prohibits Sikhs from eating flesh in such a strong language, how can he, in his tenth form, issue instructions absolutely contrary to and in negation of his own earlier instructions? To understand correctly, why Guru Ji used to hunt, we can equate (to some extent) Guru Ji to a judge in worldly courts. A Judge gives death sentence to some person after looking at all his past records. Death penalty by a judge does not mean that anyone can kill to a person without being aware of anything about his or her past. Guru Ji knew about the previous births of a soul, as is very evident from various Saakhis. Guru Granth Sahib Ji witnesses about Guru Ji’s such vision over past, present and future — called in Bani as “Pardrishti”. On the basis of that vision, Guru Ji used to grant “Mukti” to different animals. It was not for the purpose of eating their meat.
Historical edict hand written by Guru Hargobind Ji.
Some of the huntings performed by the Sikh Gurus:
1. The hunting of a wild pig in Wadali (Amritsar) by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji Maharaj:
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. Farmers were very pleased at this. At the time of his death this pig’s soul started singing praises of Guru Ji. On being asked by Bhai Bidi Chand, the soul replied:
” I used to be sikh of Guru Arjun Dev ji and used to live in Beerh Baba Budha Sahib ji (near jhabal in Amritsar; now there is beutiful Gurudwara built there, the sewa of this Gurudwara was undertaken by Baba Kharak Singh Ji, a well revered sikh octogenarian saint) to serve Baba Budha Ji. When Mata Ji (wife of Guru Arjun Dev Ji) went in horse baggi to Baba Budha ji with a wish of son, Baba ji said “Guru ke mahala noo kidron bhaajarh pai hai”. I did not like this comment of Baba Budha Ji, I got upset with Baba ji and passed some hot remarks to Baba Budha Ji. He said, “Soor vangu ghur-ghur karda firda hai, soor hoinga”. Means you are groaning like a pig, and will become pig. Then I was scared and held the feet of Baba ji, and cried for being freed from pig “Juni”. Then he blessed me, “The great son from the same Mata Ganga will free you from pig’s body and will grant you Mukti (from cycle of birth and death).”
According to the above account GuruJi killed the above pig to grant Mukati to the former sikh of Guru-Ghar and he did it according to promise given by Baba Budha Sahib Ji. This hunting was by no means to eat pig’s meat. It may be added here that Baba Budha Ji was honoured with service to Six Guruji,s and was loved very much by all of them. It was according to recognition of his spirtual level, that sixth Guruji sent Mata Ganga Ji to him for fulfulling her wish of a son — Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.
2. Hunting of a lion in Dhaulpur (Rajasthan) by Sri Guru Hargobind Singh Ji:
History tells that Guru ji had to stay overnight in Dhoulpur on his way to Gwalier along with King Jahangir. The residents of Dhoulpur complained to King Jahagir about a dangerous lion living in a forest near Dhaulpur. They requested that they may be freed from a constant danger from this lion by killing the lion.
Jahangir prepared his men for this hunting and took Guru Ji with him. Inspite of all efforts by King’s persons the lion some how progressed near to king himself, then king asked for help to Guru Ji. Guru ji without any delay came ahead to combat the lion, and asked the lion, “Kal yamun! I give first chance to you to attack on me, use your full strength so that you don’t repent it later on”. The lion attacked first and Guru ji saved himself and then attacked with his sword and killed the lion.
Later the King and others asked Guru ji about the lion being called as “kal yamun” by him. Then Guru ji answered, ” I know him from many “Yugas” and he was waiting for me here since long time. In “Doapar Yuga” when Krishna Ji killed Kans, and then defeated Jarasand for seventeen times. Eiteenth time Kal Yamun abbetted Jarasand against Krishna Ji. Krishna Ji then had to leave Mathura and take shelter in the cave of Rishi Manchkund. When Krishna Ji reached the cave of this rishi, he was asleep. Rishi Manchkunda had a blessing that just by looking at someone, he could burn him. Krishan ji put his safron coloured cloth on the Rishi and hid himself in the cave. Manchkunda followed Krishna ji to the cave, and thinking that the person under the cloth was Krishna ji, he woke up Manchkunda rishi. When manchkunda looked at him, the Kal yamun got burnt to death. Manchkunda repented at this death and asked the way to be freed from the sin which he earned by killing Kal Yamun. Krishna ji arranged a great “Yagia” (it was a religious act in Doapar) by building 68 “Kunda,s”. Upon being requested by Manchkunda rishi that Kal Yamun might also be granted “Mukti”, Krishna ji said, ” I will grant him Mukti in Kalyuga”.
So according to the promise given by Krishna ji in Doyapar Yuga, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji granted Mukti to Kal Yamun.
At present there is a Gurudwara at the place where Guru Ji had hunted the lion in Dhaulpur. This hunting was done near to hindu temple of Manchkunda. This place is situated about 3 km west to Dhoulpur city and Gurudwara’s name is “Gurudwara shri Sher Shikaar Sahib”. Many of the Krishna’s follower in Rajasthan (India) regularly arrage fairs at this Gurudwara and sing praises of Guru ji, they consider him reincarcenation of Krishna ji.
3. Shri Guru Hari Rai Sahib Ji — a strange hunter
At page 594 of Tareekh Khalsa it is mentioned that Shri Guru Hari Rai Ji was very compassionate and mercyful at heart. He used to do hunting 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).
4. Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji hunted a rabbit near Nandedh (presently known as Shri Hazoor Sahib Ji):
Once a rabbit was running across a field near to the place where Guru ji was sitting. Guru ji killed the rabbit with an arrow. The rabbit finally fell and died at the place, where now Gurudwara Shikaar Ghaat has been built.
On being asked by sikhs, Guruji revealed the details. Guru ji said the rabbit used to be Moola Khatari during time of Guru Nanak Dev ji. Guru ji once went to his house to meet him. Moola hid himself in his house and told his wife to tell lie to Guru ji that Moola was not at home. As Moola’s wife told the lie to Guru ji, Guru ji (knowing the truth) said a salok:
“nal kirada dosati koorhe koorhi pai,
Maran na jape moolia, aave kite thai.”
(salok M. 1, page 1412 in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
After this Guru ji left his home, Moola got bitten by a snake and died. People put Moola’s body on a cot and brought to Guru Nanak Dev ji, and requested to forgive him. Then Guru ji said he will have to enter diffrent “Juni,s” due to his acts, but I will grant him “Mukati” in my 10th swaroop in Kalyuga.
Mahima Prakash and most of other sakhis give detail about the above hunting of the rabbit by Guru ji. None of them says that Guru ji ate this rabbit’s meat after killing him. It is mentioned in all of these that Guru ji killed this rabbit to free Moola as per Guru ji’s promise and grant him “Mukati”.
We also have many other sakhis about of Guru Gobind Singh ji like —
(A.) Mukati of a bear who used to distributor of Prashad in Guru Arjun Dev Ji’s darbar.
(B.) Hunting of a “Ghoghar” who used to be king. He became ghogar due to curse of a virgin girl to whom he had raped.
(C.) Hunting of a Crow, who used to be sewadar in Langar of Guru Gobind Singh ji and used to remain upset and irritated all the time with sangat while doing sewa. Due to curse of a sikh of Guru ji he had to become crow.
(D.) Hunting of a Quail (I think “Tittar” in punjabi) who used to be a farmer. The farmer had taken loan while swearing by the name of Guru ji that he would return the loan to other person. He did not fulfill his promise. So guru ji caught him, removed his wings and left before a falcon (this falcon was a trader who had given loan to the farmer) to balance the account of that birth, and fulfilling his duty as witness (because the farmer had sworn by the name of Guru ji while getting loan).
(E.) Removing a doubt of Pandit keshav Dutt at Naina Devi Mountain:
Guru ji went on hunting and killed many animals. Guru ji brought and put all these dead animals near to “Havan Kund”. Pandit Keshav Dutt was surprised at this act and objected to it. As Pandit Keshav Dutt questioned Guru ji about killing all those innocent animals, Guru ji revived all those animals and let them walk in diffrent directions back to jungle. Then Guru ji explained to Pandit Keshav Dutt that he searched for these souls (animals) to whom he wanted to grant “Mukti” (which is attainable with Jap-tap otherwise). Now he would have to find them again, because they have missed one great chance of salvation (Mukti) due to Pandit Keshav’s objection. Pandit Keshav understood the real motive, and asked to be forgiven for his ignorance.
TO SUMMARISE AND UNDERSTAND THE BASIC CONCEPT BEHIND HUNTINGS:
As is mentioned in Gurubani, “satguru sikh ko ji naal saware, satguru sikh ka halat palat saware” (sukhmani sahib ji). Means Guru Ji always helps his sikh for betterment of his both worlds — this world (Halat) and next world (Parlok or Palat). Even when sikh enters diffrent “junis” (“lives” of lower animals) due to his misdeeds, Guru Ji has mercy on him. He finds him in that “juni” and grants him a stage which otherwise is attained by rishis after spending centuries of meditation and innumerable other religious acts.
It is not justice with our Great Guru ji,s to say that they killed animals to eat their meat. When someone says Guruji ate meat, he commits a sin of blaming guru ji of “Avar updese aap na kare”. Because Guru ji in their bani have prohibited clearly the eating of meat. They never allowed meat in their Langars. We can find some historical Gurudwaras with their own dairy farms and agricultural land attached to them because wheat, rice, vegetables and milk products used to be produced in them for being used in Langar. None of Gurudwara has Goat farm or poultry farm attached to it !! If Guru ji used to eat meat they would have raised these animals too.