Born simply as Deepa on 26th January 1682 in village Pahuvind, district Tarn Taran, Baba Deep Singh ji grew up to be one of the most revered scholar, soldier and martyr of the Sikh faith. Baba ji’s parents Bhai Bhagata ji and Mata Jeoni ji, first took their son to visit Guru Gobind Singh ji at Anandpur Sahib in 1694 at the age of 12, where he served the community at Anandpur Sahib, learning Sikh philosophy as well as martial arts. On Vaisakhi day in 1700 that Deepa took Amrit from the Panj Pyare and was renamed Deep Singh. During his stay at Anandpur with many elevated souls, the Sangat recognised Deep Singh as a very wise man and therefore honoured him with the title of “Baba.” Baba Deep Singh later returned to Pahuvind to help his parents in 1702.
It was in 1704 that Baba Deep Singh was informed that Guru Gobind Singh hi jad left Anandpur Sahib and that the two elder son’s of the Guru had been martyred in the Battle of Chamkor. Upon hearing such disheartening news, Baba Deep Singh Ji immediately left Pahuwind to meet with Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Baba Deep Singh Ji caught up with the Guru at Damdama Sahib in Talwandi. At Damdama Sahib, Baba Deep Singh ji worked with Bhai Mani Singh ji to prepare the final text of Guru Granth Sahib ji. Even after Guru ji had left Damdama Sahib to travel to Deccan with Bahadur Shah, and Bhai Mani Singh ji had been sent to Amritsar, Baba Deep Singh ji continued to write additional copies of Guru Granth Sahib ji including one in Arabic script, which was sent to the Middle East.
In 1708 when Banda Singh Bahadur was authorised by Guru Gobind Singh ji to uproot the tyrant rulers in Punjab, Sikhs were ordered to support and join him in his mission. Baba Hardas Singh who had previously fought in Battles alongside Guru Gobind Singh ji led a jatha of Sikhs to join up with Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. Baba Hardas Singh (grandfather of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia) from village Sur-Singh district Amritsar, was a blacksmith who made many weapons including the Khanda (double edged sword) used by Baba Deep Singh ji and the Nagni used by Bhai Bachitter Singh ji against the drunken elephant at Anandpur Sahib.
Baba Deep Singh ji joined the jatha led by Baba Hardas Singh and fought together in the battle under the command of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur at Sirhind—the city in which Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s younger sons had been killed. Baba Ji fought so bravely without care for his life, that Baba Banda Singh Ji Bahadur entrusted Baba Ji with the title “Jinda Shaheed” (living martyr). Since that moment Baba Ji was called “Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Ji”. It is noteworthy that Baba Ji wasn’t called “Shaheed” after he died, but during his own lifetime.
In 1733 the Mughal ruler of Lahore sought peace with the Sikhs by offering them a Governorship and self rule. Nawab Kapoor Singh Ji, the commander of the Khalsa forces divided the Sikhs into groups for administrative convenience. These groups later evolved into 12 regiments which collectively were known as Dal Khalsa. Nawab Kapoor Singh ji appointed Baba Ji as the leader of one of the regiments known as Misl Shaheeda(n)
As the leader of the Misl Shaheeda(n), Baba Deep Singh ji achieved numerous victories for the Sikhs. The Misl had its sphere of influence south of the River Sutlej and Baba Deep Singh’s headquarters remained at Damdama Sahib. The tower in which he lived still stands next to the Takht Sri Damdama Sahib and is known as Burj Baba Deep Singh Shaheed.
In May 1757, on the orders of the Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali, the viceroy of Lahore Jahan Khan invaded Amritsar and razed the Sikh fortress of Ram Rauni and defiled the sacred pool. Although Baba Deep Singh Ji was now seventy-five years old, he still had the strength of a young warrior. He gathered a large group of Sikhs and advanced towards Amritsar. By the time they reached the village of Tarn Taran, about ten miles from Amritsar, their numbers had risen to about five thousand. At this time, Baba Ji drew a line on the ground with his Khanda, and asked only those who were willing to fight and die to cross the line.
All of the assembled Sikhs crossed the line eagerly. Baba Deep Singh Ji then recited the hymn:
“Those who wish to play the game of love (to follow the Sikh path), come to me with your head in your palm. If you wish your feet to travel this path, don’t delay in accepting to give your head.”
When news of Baba Deep Singh Ji’s intentions reached Jahan Khan, he immediately mobilized an army of 20,000 men and proceeded towards Tarn Taran. Baba Deep Singh Ji’s army intercepted Jahan Khan’s forces near the village of Goharwal, about five miles from Amritsar.
Both the armies clashed near Gohalwarh on the 11th November, 1757. Fighting bravely, the Singhs pushed the army back and reached village Chabba where Attal Khan came forward and fierce battle ensued during which Attal Khan inflicted a blow on Baba Deep Singh Ji severing his head from his body. Baba Deep Singh, started to lose his footing under the impact of the blow, when a Sikh reminded him of his vow to reach Sri Harimander Sahib. Upon hearing this, Baba Deep Singh Ji immediately stood up, holding his severed head upright on his left palm while holding his khanda in his right hand. He then continued fighting (with strength derived from the recitation of prayers) and continued moving towards Sri Harimander Sahib.
Upon seeing the sight of Baba Deep Singh’s headless body tearing through their numbers, most of the men in the Mughal army fled away in terror. Baba Deep Singh was able to continue fighting and fulfilled his oath on finally reached Sri Harimander Sahib – there he bowed and lay his head on the parkarma (rectangular walkway) of this sacred Gurdwara. The Sikh Army continued to fight the fleeing Mughals until victory was achieved. Baba Deep Singh ji is remembered by all Sikhs as a brave and courageous martyr with an unflinching dedication to the Sikh principles.
Two shrines now commemorate the martyr, one on the circumambulatory terrace of the Sarovar surrounding the Harimander Sahib where he finally fell and the other, Shahidganj Baba Deep Singh Shahid, near Gurdwara Ramsar, where his body was cremated. The places where Baba ji drew the line, engaged in battle, lost his head, threw it, and where it landed are all marked by Gurdwaras in Punjab. Baba Deep Singh Ji’s actions encouraged the Sikhs to continue to fight against the tyrannical and oppressive Mughal Empire for many years. Even today, his life serves as an example for all Sikhs on how to live and die with dignity.