First, it is pertinent to look at contemporary and semi-contemporary historical sources that discuss the passing of Guru Sahib. In this section, we present the sources that were written purely from historical viewpoint to objectively present the events vis-à-vis the passing of Guru Sahib.
The first source to mention the demise of Guru Sahib is the Royal Court News, the Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, of October-November 1708 A. D. and the Bahadur Shah Nama at a number of places. In these newspapers it is clearly mentioned:
On the death of the Guru having been reported to the Emperor, he ordered on October 30, 1708 (26th Sha’ban, 2nd Bahadurshahi regnal year), for a dress of honour to be conferred upon the Guru’s (adopted) mourning son Ajit Singh –Hukm shud kih ba pisar-i-Gobind Rao Nanakpanthi khila-i-matami-i pidar-bi-dihand – It was ordered (by the Emperor) that a robe (khilat) be bestowed upon the son of Gobind Rao Nanakpanthi mourning for the death of his father. (Succession Theories, 12)
Ajit Singh was the adopted son of Mata Sundari Ji, wife of Guru Sahib, and had been acknowledged as such by the government officials including the Emperor. When enquired about the moveable property of the Guru which, according to the Mughal practice, should have been confiscated, the Emperor declared the following order on Ramazan 9, 2nd Bahadurshahi (November 11, 1708):
These goods will not add to the affluence of the royal treasury. It is the property of saintly people. It should not be interfered with” – Hukm shud az-In amwal khazanah-i-badshahan mamur na-mIshawad. Mal-i-darveshan ast, Mazaham na-shawand (Succession Theories, 13)
Next contemporary evidence is of ballad singer Nath Mall who was present in the camp of Guru Sahib at Nanded. One of his ballads known as the Amar Nama, composed under the name of the Guru Sahib himself in the first person, was completed in the month of Katik 1765 Bikrami after the death of the tenth Guru. As the 30th of Katik of that year corresponded to October 31, 1708, the Amar Nama was evidently completed within twenty-four days of the Guru Sahib’s passing. Describing it in the first person in the words of the Guru, the Amar Nama says in lines 61-62:
I (then) resolved to set for the lasting abode in heaven, which is the place of all peace and divine blissfulness. My Singhs (the Khalsa) shall remain firm, listening to Vars from Dhadi singers. (Nath Mall, Dhadi. Amarnama. Ed. Ganda Singh. 1953. PDF file, p. 29)
Ibrat Niimah or the Swaneh, 1705-19 A. D, written by Mirza Muhammad Harisi., devotes some thirteen pages to the contemporary account of the Sikhs, with particular reference to Banda Singh. The author mentions that Guru Gobind Singh had travelled in the train of Emperor Bahadur Shah to the Deccan and was killed there in 1120 al-Hijri, 1708 A. D., by an Afghan, an old enemy of his, and his body was cremated according to Hindu rites. Ajit Singh, who was popularly known as his son and had been received into royal favour, remained with the Emperor. (Succession Theories, 14-15)
Sri Gur Sobha by poet Sainapat was completed in 1768 Bikrami, 1711 A. D., i.e., within three years of Guru Sahib’s passing. The author mentions that a day prior, Guru Sahib, in reply to a question of the Sikhs repeated the same words as of 1699 and said that He had conferred his physical form to Khalsa and the Guruship was vested in the Limitless and the Eternal Word as the Satguru. In the words of Sainapat:
ਖਾਲਸ ਹੀ ਸੋ ਹੈ ਮਮ ਕਾਮਾ । ਬਖਸ਼ ਦੀਓ ਖਾਲਸ ਕੋ ਜਾਮਾ ॥ 41॥806॥..
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ ਸਬਦਿ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ ਅਜਰ ਜਰੰ । (Sainpat, Kavi. Sri Gur Sobha. Ed. Ganda Singh. Patiala: Punjab University, 1996. Print, p. 170)
Sayyad Muhammad Qasim Husaini Lahauri’s Ibrat Nama completed in 1722 and Ibrat Iqbal written in 1731 not only mention the demise of Guru Sahib but also his cremation by his disciples (Sikhs) with aloe and sandalwood according to Sikh rites. (Succession Theories, 35)
Chahar Gulshan Akhbarun- Nawadir completed in 1759 by Rai Chatarman states:
As declared by Guru Nanak, there are ten persons [to be recognized]. These Ten khalifahs (Gurus) are called Das Mahal. Anyone else sitting on the gaddi after them is not acceptable to them (the Sikhs). (Succession Theories, 35)
In the Majma-ul-Akhbar (1214-20 A.H., 1799-1805 A.D.), its author Har Sukh Rai says about Guru Gobind Singh:
He is the Tenth Mahal and is the last Zahur (appearance or successor) of Guru Nanak. (Succession Theories, 35)
Muhammad Ali Khan Ansari on page 152 of Tarikh-i-MuzaffarI, (1810 A.D.) and page 208 of Tarikh-i-Bahr-ul-Mawwaj states:
After him (Guru Gobind Singh), according to the faith of these people (the Sikhs), the descending of Guruship and of internal spiritualism came to an end and the book, the Granth, was established in place of the Guru. (Succession Theories, 36)
Khushwaqt Rai’s Tarlkh-I-Sikhan, also called the Kitab-i-Tawarikh-i··Panjab, was written in 1811. Therein he says:
at Afzal [Abchal] Nagar [Nanded] the Guru purchased a piece of land and moved in all happiness from this transitory world to the world Eternal. The disciples of the Guru collected from all sides and cremated his dead body with aloe and sandalwood with all the necessary rites. This event, that is his death, took place on Katik Sudi 5, 1765 Bikrami. The generation (of Gurus) of Guru Nanak up to Guru Gobind Singh came to an end. (Succession Theories, 37)
There are some other sources of first half of 19th century namely Tawarikh-i-Hind by Ahmad Shah Batalia, Umdat-ut-Twarikh by Sohan Lal Suri, Khalis Namah by Ratan Chand Bal and Tarikh-i-Panjab by Ghualm Muhy-ud-Din that unanimously agree upon the passing of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Another source Zafar Namah-i-Ranjit Singh of 1876 by Kanhaiya Lal states the same unequivocally.
In addition to Muslim sources, there are many English sources written by Europeans that confirm the fact that Guru Gobind Singh Ji did not appoint any human successor. George Forster in his A Journey from Bengal to England written in 1783 says:
Govind Singh was assassinated during this expedition of Emperor Bahadur Shah to the Deccan by a Pathan soldier and he died of his wounds in 1708 at the town of Nandere without leaving any male issue; and a tradition delivered to the Sicques, limiting their priests to the number of ten, induced them to appoint no successors to Govind Singh. (Sicques, Tigers or Thieves. Ed. Amandeep Singh Madra and Paramjit Singh. New York: Pelgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print, p. 139)
Major James Browne talking about the inscription on the Sikh coins, casually mentions the Sikh Gurus in his History of the Origin and Progress of the Sicks published in1787-88. He states:
but they had been current about fifteen years, the grand Diet of the Sick chiefs (called Goormutta) determined to call in all those rupees, and to strike them in the names of Gooroo Nanak and Gooroo Gobind Singh, the first and last of their Gooroos or religious leaders. (Sicques, Tigers or Thieves. Ed. Amandeep Singh Madra and Paramjit Singh. New York: Pelgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print, p. 94)
Other English writers like Malcolm, Osborne, M’Gregor, Cunningham and Bowering all describe the passing of Guru Gobind Singh as an objective historical fact.
In addition to all the above historical works, there are Gur Parnalis, genealogies of the Gurus. Here is a list of Gur Parnalis that clearly state demise of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. (Exact quote can be provided)
- Bhai Kesar Singh written in 1780. Demise date given as Katik Sudi 5, Samat 1765.
- Kavi Sondha written in 1833. Demise date given as Katik Sudi 5, Samat 1765.
- Bhai Gulab Singh written during Sikh Kingdom. Demise date given as Katik Sudi 5, Samat 1765.
With the above presented evidence, it becomes conclusively proven beyond the doubt that Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s physical passing is a historical fact.