The origin of the Red Cross

Reference : http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Bhai_Kanhaiya

During the frequent sallies and skirmishes between the Sikhs and the enemy, Bhai Kanhaiya was often seen carrying a mashak (a sort of pouch made of goat's skin that was used to carry water from one place to another), to serve water to anyone who was thirsty. He took upon the task of quenching the thirst of the wounded soldiers in the battle of Anandpur Sahib in 1704. He did this sewa with love and affection without any discrimination between the Guru's Sikh soldiers and the Mughal armies' soldiers. His act of compassion stirred up stern criticism amongst his fellow Sikhs, who went ahead and complained to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was serving water to the wounded soldier's from the enemy camp. They were especially annoyed because the Mughals had surrounded the city and stopped all their food supplies, and here was Bhai Kanhaiya sharing with them what little water they had. They had tried to stop him many a time, but he would not pay any heed.

This great deed of Bhai Kanhaiya to roam around serving water to the wounded and the dying without distinction of friend and foe eventually led to a summon by Guru Ji. This benevolent action of this special Sikh had upset some Sikhs who went directly and complained to Guru Gobind Singh that Bhai Kanhaiya had been resuscitating the fallen enemy soldiers. Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

Guruji said, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji replied "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. And, ... Guru Ji, .. they all have the same God’s Spirit? – Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same?"

The Guru was very pleased with the reply. Bhai Kanhaiya Ji had understood the deep message of Gurbani correctly. Guru ji smiled and blessed Bhai Kanhaiya. Guru Ji said, "Bhai Kanhaiya Ji, You are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani". He then continued and told the Sikhs that Bhai Kanhaiya had understood the deeper message of the Gurus' teachings correctly and that they all have to strive to learn lessons from the priceless words of Gurbani.

Guru also gave Bhai Kanhaiya Ji medical Balm and said “From now on, You should also put this balm on the wounds of all who need it”'

Then turning to the sangat Guru Ji said, Saadh sangat ji, Bhai Kanhaiya is a God-fearing saintly soul. His impartial and non-biased behaviour towards others has led him to achieve Sehaj-avastha. Let him carry on with his mission. Many more will follow in his footsteps in the years to come and keep the tradition of Nishkam sewa alive."

To have respect for every person is a fundamental pillar of Sikhism and a strong message advanced by the Tenth Guru.

Bhai Kanhaiya died in 1718 CE after retiring to Sodhara. His example, as a forerunner of the present day Red Cross, is a tribute to the universal message of compassion and kindness to all.

While the world hails Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, as the first humanitarian at the service for the care of war victims, Sikhism produced Bhai Ghaniya, more than 100 years before the inception of the Red Cross.

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