In 1704 AD, the Mughal army reached a military understanding with hill kingdoms around the Anandgarh Fort. As a prelude to the later battles to come, smaller skirmishes between the Mughals and the Sikhs soon commenced. A tall man carrying a mashak (a goatskin pouch) appeared and started serving water to the injured. He was obviously a Sikh, but to everybody’s surprise, he served all the injured, whether Mughal or Sikh, without any discrimination.
The battlefield attendant was Bhai Kanhaiya. He was born near Sialkot (Pakistan), and gave up a wealthy heritage in favour of a life of service to humanity. He was a disciple of the ninth guru Sri Guru Teg Bahadur, and established an open house in Attock (Pakistan). He then founded the Sevapanthi order (brothers in service of humanity), and preached the Guru’s word. He was on a visit to Anandpur in 1704 AD, when he was found on the battlefield, serving friend and foe alike.
The Sikh army complained that a Sikh was serving the Mughal soldiers too. The Guru smiled and said that Bhai Kanhaiya will give his own explanation, who responded with this composition from Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
The sense of difference between self and others has left me,
Ever since I found the company of the Holy.
Now, there is no enemy, and no one is a stranger, all are friends.
The One God pervades all, beholding Him, Nanak blossoms forth in happiness.
Sri Guru Gobind Singh asked Bhai Kanhaiya to continue his selfless service, and also equipped him with medicine. During the entire battle of Anandgarh, from 1704 to 1705, Bhai Kanhaiya attended to both Mughal and Sikh armies, with water and medicine.
The International Red Cross was founded much later in 1853, but its foundations in South Asia had been laid by Bhai Kanhaiya in 1704.