Martyrdom to sacrifice one’s life for a noble cause has a special place in Sikhism. Shahidi or shahadat refers to affirmation of truth, justice and faith. A true belief provides courage and inspiration to lay one’s life to uphold truth. As says Guru Nanak, “Listen O mind, that person who fears nothing nor gives anyone cause to fear has alone obtained true knowledge”.
Sikh history is replete with innumerable examples of shahidis. The Sikh Gurus did not believe in giving only textual knowledge but rather they lived those great Sikh values to inspire the Sikhs. From Guru Arjan Dev to Guru Tegh Bahadur to Guru Gobind Singh, all the Gurus proved to be true role models for their followers who had sacrificed their lives so that justice could prevail. The Sikhs, not surprisingly, followed suit and took pride in embracing martyrdom. No wonder there is a saying that “the Sikhs have a fondness for death”.
One such great martyr was Udham Singh, a revolutionary, a true Khalsa. A witness to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Udham Singh dedicated his life to avenge this injustice and the cruelty inflicted by the British.
Udham Singh was born on December 26, 1899 at Sunam in the Sangrur district of Punjab. He was named Sher Singh by his parents. Unfortunately, he lost his parents at a very young age and was admitted to Central Khalsa Orphanage along with his brother, Mukta Singh. Their initiation into Khalsahood, with the pahul ceremony, also gave them new names. Hence, Sher Singh was now known as Udham Singh and his brother as Sadhu Singh. But Udham Singh was left alone when his brother too died in 1917.
Udham Singh, his spirit undaunted by tragic personal events and infused with patriotism, happened to be present on the day marked as a black day in Indian history. It was a Baisakhi day, a day of the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. It was April 13, 1919 and the peaceful congregation was attacked by Gen. Dyer without giving any warning and without any kind of provocation from people. He opened fire on unarmed people, not giving them any chance to escape as the park had a single narrow gate that was blocked by Gen. Dyer. Udham Singh witnessed the killing of numerous people. This proved to be a turning point in his life, inspiring him to adopt the path of revolution.
Udham Singh was influenced by Bhagat Singh, a great revolutionary and impressed by the poetry penned by Ram Prasad Bismal, another freedom fighter. Udham Singh had left India and went to the US and then to England as well. He, for all his life, was waiting for an opportunity to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy. On March 13, 1940, in Caxton Hall, London, Udham Singh fired at Michael O’Dwyer, who died on the spot. Udham Singh did not even try to escape but surrendered and said he had done his duty for his country. On July 31, 1940 he was hanged to death.
Udham Singh was a noble soul and all the hardships of his life did not deter him from following the path of sacrifice, justice and the right cause. He used to give his name as “Ram Muhammad Singh Azad”, incorporating all religions and hence, emphasising on unity.
Udham Singh used to call death as his bride whom he was going to wed. A great soul, a martyr, Udham Singh once again proved that a true Sikh does not fear death and is always ready to sacrifice his life for the righteous cause....