This is a drawing Bhai Kanhaiya Singh Ji (1648–1718). which is for my 'Sikh art' exhibition taking place between the 2nd to 15th November at the Winns Gallery in Walthamstow. I have seen lots of artwork depicting Bhai Kanhaiya Singh Ji but none of them really represent the entire story in there depiction.
The story goes that Bhai Kanhaiya Singh Ji that In 1704 he was on a visit to Anandpur when the city was invaded by the imperial Mughal army. During the frequent battles between the Sikhs and the enemy, Bhai Kanhaiya was often seen carrying a mashak (a spouch made of goat's skin that was used to carry water), 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 (as you can see in my drawing he is giving water to the Mughal soldier, while the Sikh soldiers are crying for help in the background). His act of compassion stirred up stern criticism amongst his fellow Sikhs (the Sikh soldiers pointing in the right corner), who complained to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, pointing out that Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was serving water to the wounded soldiers 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. 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."
I hope my interpretation gives a more honest account of what happened. Including the very difficult decision he made to do what was right even though it angered his fellow Sikhs. I have thought about this dilemma while drawing this piece, and still am not sure if I would have the compassion courage to do what he did.