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Shaheed Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji

After Jahangir, his son, Shah Jahan, became the Emperor. He continued the religious policy of his father, but in a milder form. He wanted his eldest son, Dara Shikoh, to succeed him on the throne of Delhi. Dara Shikoh was a pious, kind-hearted and liberal minded man. If he had succeeded his father, India's subsequent history would have been far different. Sikh history, too, would have taken different course. Dara Shikoh was an admirer of the Sikh Gurus. But that was not to be. Shah Jahan fell seriously ill. His sons thought he was about to die. They began to fight among themselves for the throne. Aurangzeb defeated his brothers. He killed Dara Shikoh and another of his brothers fled the country to save his life. The third brother was imprisoned by Aurangzeb at Agra. Shah Jahan also was imprisoned at that place by his son Aurangzeb. After thus disposing of his father and brothers, Aurangzeb became the Emperor of Delhi. He got rid of all his opponents most mercilessly and thoroughly. By such acts he made it clear that he was clever, cruel, crafty and callous man with an iron will. It was clear to all that he could not tolerate any opposition in any form, from any quarter whatsoever.

In religious matters he was harder than even his father and grandfather had been. He was extremely fanatical. He was a Sunni Muslim. He had come to believe that his own religion was the only true religion. All who professed other religions were considered by him to be Kafir or infidels. He considered himself to be God's Deputy on earth. He made up his mind that the Islam of his conception should be the only religion in his empire. He wanted all his subjects to be Sunni Muslims. He aimed at establishing an orthodox Sunni Muslim State. Among the Muslims, there were many who were pious and liberal-minded. They were Shias and Sufis. They did not hate non-Muslims. They wanted to be friends with them, to live at peace with them. Aurangzeb did not like such pious, liberal-minded Muslims. He had them all murdered in cold blood. At the same time, he started ruthless campaign to Muslimize the Hindus. Strict ordrsd were given to the governers and officers all over the empire to do their utmost to make the Hindus embrace Islam. Those who agreed to become Muslims, were given many facilities, favours and concessions. Those who did not, were subjected to many forms of hardship and harassement, not only by government officers but also by their Muslim neighbours. Very hard, indeed, was the Hindus' lot in those days !

Guru Tegh Bahadur took up his duties as the ninth Guru of the Sikhs in March 1665, that is, about seven years after Aurangzeb had managed to occupy the throne of Delhi. It was, thus, in the reign of this fanatic, bigoted, and callous hearted monarch that Guru Teg Bahadur had to carry on his work. This was to prepare the people to face all oppression and persecution with fearless, dauntless courage and steadfast boldness. It was to urge them to hold their faith and honor far more dear and precious than life; to be ever ready to give up life, and refuse to give up their dharma. It was to develop in them a sense of their rights as human beings. It was to arouse in them a longing and an urge to claim and assert these rights. Soon after taking up his duties as the ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur founded Sri Anandpur. The land needed for the purpose was purchased from the raja of Kahlur. Then he decided to undertake an extensive missionary tour of the eastern provinces of India. This tour lasted from 1665 to 1670. His aim, of course, was to preach his faith and ideals. He visited important cities like Agra, Allahbad, Banaras, Gaya, and Patna. Then, leaving his family in Patna, he moved onwards through Monghyr to Dacca. From their he carried out his extensive tours of that province. He spent about two years working there. Then he went to the north and preached his mission among the Assamese.

In Assam the Guru met Raja Ram Singh Kachhawa of Amber (Jaipur), son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh in the beginning of the year 1668. He had been a great admirer of the Sikh Gurus. It was he who had invited Guru Harkrishan to Delhi and treated him as his honored guest. Like his father Raja Ram Singh was an admirer of the Sikh Gurus. He had gone to Assam to lead the military campaign against the Assamese on behalf of Emperor Aurangzeb. The Guru was eager to prevent bloodshed. He managed to bring two parties together for negotiations. He was able to bring about understanding and peace between them. This was effected at a place named Dhubri on the right bank of the river Brahmpura. At that spot a high 'Mound of Peace' was raised by soldiers of the two armies, working together and using their shields to carry the earth which they needed. Near that Mound stands a Gurdwara called Damdama Sahib. It was this period when the Guru was touring the eastern provinces of India, that there occurred a marked and lamentable change for the worse in Aurangzeb's policy toward the Hindus. He adopted a severe attitude toward them. On April 8, 1669, he issued orders to the governers of all provinces to destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the 'infidels'. They were strictly enjoined to put an entire stop to the teaching of idolatrous forms of worship.

Most of the 'infidels' in Aurangzeb's empire were Hindus so they became the chief targets of this anti-infidel campaign. The Sikhs were not given to any form of idolatrous worship. But to the Muslim rulers all dissent from their religion was intolerable; it was kufar. Hence to them even Sikhs were 'infidels'. The Sikhs therefore, could not expect, nor did they get, a different treatment. They, too, had their share of attention from the emperor's governors and their officers. As we know in most towns and cities there were representatives of the Guru. They were called masands. They preached the Sikh faith. They also received, on the Guru's behalf, the offerings made by the Sikhs of their localities. These offerings the took to the Guru once a year. Emperor Aurangzeb ordered that the masands be expelled from the town and cities. He also ordered that Sikhs' places of worship, Gurdwaras, be destroyed. Quite a number of Gurdwaras were demolished.

Guru Teg Bahadur was at this time in Assam. It was there that he heard of the change for the worse in Aurangzeb's policy of religious persecution of the non-Muslims, including the Sikhs. As the result of emperor's changed religious policy, the Hindus and Sikhs were passing through terrible times. Guru Teg Bahadur had come to be generally looked upon as Hind Ki Chadar or Champion of the Hindus. He was also head of the Sikh Religion, the Guru of the Sikhs. How could he stay away from his people, when they were in great distress ! He felt that his place was among them and with them. So leaving his family at Patna, he rushed back to the Punjab. The year was 1670. When he reached his people, he inspired them, encouraged and consoled them with discourses, exhortations, and Divine Songs. He taught them to strike fear in none to be afraid of no one and fear nothing. The Guru felt that he should not stay in his headquarters in Anadpur. ' I must be among my people,' he said to himself. ' I must visit them. I must go about from place to place, telling my people to prepare themselves for what is coming , and coming every soon; to shed fear and weakness; to face and oppose the tyrants with all their might.' Accordingly, he undertook an extensive whirlwind tour of the Malwa and the southern part of the country. In this tour he visited countless places and addressed countless people. Sikhs from all over the country flocked to see and hear him. There was always a large assembly of his followers and disciples at his congregations. They made considerable offerings to the Guru. As he had returned to the Punjab after over five years, the gatherings at his diwans (congregations) were unusually large. The offerings of bhet made by them to the Guru was also unusually large. As he moved from place to place, he was always accompanied by a large number of Sikhs and other visitors.

Everywhere, he said to the people, ' You know what the Mughals are doing. The great Mughal, Aurangzeb, wants the Islam of his conception to be the only religion professed and practiced in his empire; so that all his subjects should be Sunni Muslim. He wants all non-Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, to choose between Islam and death. Soon you may have to make that choice. Get ready to suffer for your faith. Take a vow that you will give up your life, but will not give up your dharma. Prepare yourselves to face and fight the tyrants in defense of your dharma. God will help you. The emperor will, I feel, turn his attention to me. He will deal with me as his grandfather, Jahangir, dealt with my grandfather, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. His treatment of me might even be more cruel and fierce. He will issue orders for my arrest. He will tell me to choose between Islam and death. You need not to be told what choice I shall make. He will then have me murdered. That is certain to happen. But don't feel dejected or downcast. I feel that the path of peaceful activity and suffering will have to be given up. It will have to be abandoned. You know that after Guru Arjan Dev's martydom, my father, Guru Har Gobind, had changed the Sikhs from saints to saint-soldiers, from peaceful devotees of God to God-fearing warriors. Similarly, after my death, my son, your next Guru, will take up arms. He will be great warrior. He will raise a powerful army of saint-warriors. He will change jackals into lions, sparrows into hawks. Get ready for that change. Get ready to muster strongly under his leadership and to shake the Mughal empire to its roots. I shall watch and bless you from above.'

Guru Teg Bahadur had returned from his tour of the east and north-east in 1670. Because of the Emperor's orders, the royal reporters and news writers began to pay closer attention to the activities of the Guru on his return to Punjab. The royal reporters reported to the Emperor that Guru Teg Bahadur had become a man of great influence. 'For years by now,' they reported, ' he has been conducting an extensive whirlwind tour of the country. He has been going about with many thousand men. He is also collecting funds. Wit the increase in the number of his followers and financial resources, he might raise the standard of rebellion. Now, at that time, Aurangzeb was encamped at Hasan Abdal. He had gone there to quell the rebellion of the Pathans on the north-western frontier of his empire. He had left Delhi on April 7 and reached Hasan Abdal on June 1674. It was there that he received the royal reporters' reports against the Guru. He was then busy quelling the Pathans' rebellion. He had no time to make intensive enquiries about allegations. Indeed, he did not have even the inclination to make any such enquiries. He was already suspicious of the Sikh movement to which his grandfather had tried to put an end. He himself also wanted to suppress it. But he was then busy at Hasan. Though his fears were aroused by the reporters, yet he took no immediate action. Then he received another report against the Guru. Thereupon he decided to strike, to end the Guru's life and activities.

The governers of all provinces were busy taking action in accordance with the emperor's orders of April 1669. The governor of Kashmir was doing the same. In 1671, Nawab Saif Khan, governor of Kashmir, was transferred and his place was taken by Nawab Iftikhar Khan. The new governor was an enthusiastic exponent and executor of the emperor's policy. He chose to be specially active in this matter. He called upon the Hindus of Kashmir to choose between Islam and death. Those who refused to give up their faith were put to the sword. Then he turned his attention to the Brahmins of his province. He was very severe with them. He subjected them to the utmost tyranny. He told them the emperor's orders. He told them to choose between Islam and death. They were further told to make their choice without delay. They said, 'Give us six months' time to consider the matter.' He acceded to their request. The people and Pandits of Kashmir offered special prayers to their gods and goddesses. But all was in vain because Hindus worship stones, snakes, trees, air and such those kind of things. In their extreme distress, the Pandits decided to seek Guru Tegh Bahadur's advice and help. The Guru had completed his tour and had returned to Siri Anandpur. Accordingly, a sixteen man deputation of the Brahmans of Kashmir waited upon the Guru at Siri Anandpur. Their leader was Pandit Kirpa Ram Dutt of Muttan. He had known the Guru for some time as the tutor of his young son, Sri Gobind Rai, at Anandpur. The deputation arrived at Anandpur on May 25, 1675. The Pandits had told the Guru of what they had suffered and what more was in store for them. They added, 'Our lot has become unbearable. You are rightly known as Hind Ki Chadar, Champion of the Hindus. We have been given six months' time in which to make our choice between Islam and death. That period is about to end. We have not been able to decide this way or that. We have come to you for help, guidance, and protection, O Champion of the Hindus.'

The Pandits' woeful tale plunged the Guru into deep and anxious thought. He thought to himself, thousands of people have to make the same choice. Things are becoming intolerable. Something should be done to set them right. But what should it be ? Guru Tegh Bahadur sat silent lost in thought. At that time his son, Siri Gobind Rai, came in and sat on his lap. He did not receive the usual caresses from his father. He looked in the latter's face. He discovered that his father was absorbed in some deep and anxious thought. Then he looked at the Pandits standing before the Guru. He noticed their long faces and downcast eyes. He felt convinced that the Guru's concern was about these persons. 'What is it, dear Papa ?' asked he in his charming Bihari accent. 'Why is your ever calm and bright face furrowed with care and clouded with gloom ? What are you pondering over so deeply and anxiously ? What have these good people been telling you ? They seem to be plunged in some woe. What is the matter ?' The Guru replied, 'These good people are Pandits of Kashmir. Their governor has told them to choose between Islam and death. They don't want to choose either of the two. They were given six months' time in which to make up their minds. That time-limit is about to expire. They have come to me for help and advice. 'The problem before me is very tough. The times are hard, very hard. But still harder times are soon to come. The Mughals rulers are making all-out efforts to convert all their subjects to Islam. To achieve that object, they were behaving like fierce wild beasts. Their conscience is dead. Their hearts have become frozen and stony. Something has to be done to melt and soften their hearts, to bring back to them their lost human nature, and to revive their conscience. On the other hand, Hindus have lost all sense of dignity and self-respect. They seem to have become dead. They bear everything most meekly, without even a whispered protest. They are spiritually dead. Something has to be done to inspire them with life, courage and human dignity, to put new life into their dead bones.

'This two-fold task must be performed without delay. The first task is that of melting the ruler's stony, frozen hearts, and filling them with fear of God, love for man, and human sympathy. The second task is that of infusing life, courage, and a sense of self-respect in the Hindus, and arousing in them the courage to do and dare. They have to be taught to claim and assert their human rights. 'There seem to be only one way to achieve all this. Some great holy man should throw himself before the beastly tyrants and challenge them to do their worst. The sight of suffering bravely born by such a one, might give them a shock and shaking. Their dead human nature might come back to life. Their hearts might begin to throb with human sympathy. On the other hand, the same sight will produce a strong stir and indignation among the non-Muslims. They will realize the need of ending the tyranny of these bigoted rulers. They will begin to think how make themselves free from beastly tyrants' yoke. But how and where to find such a holy man ? That is the problem which has made me sad and lost in thought, my dear.' Siri Gobind Rai, who was hardly eight years old, said, 'For that sacrifice, dear father, who can be worthier than you ?' On hearing this, Guru Tegh Bahadur felt satisfied that his son would be a worthy successor to him. He felt sure that Siri Gobind Rai would prove equal to the task before him. The task was that of leading his people through the difficult that were soon to come. Accordingly, he told Pandits to go and tell the governor, 'Guru Tegh Bahadur is our leader and guide. First make him a Muslim. Then we shall follow his example. We shall adopt your faith of our own accord.'

The Kashmiri Pandits thanked the Guru for his sympathy, guidance, and promise to sacrifice himself in order to save them. They went to the governor. They said to him what Guru had advised them to do. The governor promptly reported the whole matter to the emperor at Hasan Abdal, and sought his further orders. Aurangzeb was filled with rage on getting the governor's report. His own reporters also sent a similar report. They told him Guru's sympathetic response to the Brahmans' appeal; of his readiness to lay down his life in their cause. The emperor burst out, 'He has dared to express sympathy with the infidel Brahmans of Kashmir. His conduct is an open affront to me and my policy regarding the infidels. I cannot brook it. He must suffer for it; he must die for it.' He at once issued an order to the governor of Lahore to have the Guru arrested, fettered, and detain in prison. Further orders about him, he added, would be given on receiving a report that the first order had been carried out. The governor of Lahore passed on the emperor's order to the faujdar of Sarhind, Dilawar Khan; for Siri Anandpur was within his jurisdiction. The latter, in turn, asked the circle Kotwal of Ropar, Noor Mohammad Khan Mirza, to arrest the Guru; for Sri Anandpur lay in his immediate jurisdiction. The emperor's orders for the Guru's arrest were kept secret. The Kotwal feared that if the order got out the Guru's followers and admirers might create trouble. He wanted to wait for a suitable opportunity to effect the arrest without any fuss and difficulty. He did not have to wait long for that opportunity. The Guru, accompanied by a few followers, left Anandpur for another tour. He did so on July 11, 1675. He soon arrived at the village of Malikpur Rangharan near Ropar. He wanted to cross the river Satluj for his onward journey. At that village he stayed in the house of a Sikh named Dargahia or Nigahia.

The Kotwal had deputed special police informers to watch and report the Guru's movements. They informed him of the Guru's arrival at Malikpur Rangharan along with a few Sikhs. He hurried to the spot at once. The Jats of the village got news that the Kotwal had come to arrest the Guru. They came out in a body to oppose the arrest. But with the help of local Ranghars and a strong force of additional police, the Kotwal was able to arrest the Guru and his companions. This happened on July 12, 1675. The Kotwal, Noor Mohammad Khan Mirza, sent the Guru to Sarhind. The faujdar of Sarhind, Dilawar Khan, reported the Guru's arrest to the imperial headquarters and sought further orders. The Guru Ji was kept at Sarhind for some three months and a half, fettered, chained, and detained in prison. Then a parwana was received from the imperial headquarters. As required therein, the Guru was dispatched to Delhi, shut up in an iron cage. He reached there on November 5, 1675. The emperor was informed accordingly, and his further orders were sought about what was to be done to the Guru. He was kept in an iron cage, fettered and chained. Nobody was allowed to meet him.

In the meanwhile, the Subedar and the royal Qazi did their utmost to persuade the Guru to be converted to Islam. Finding him unwilling to do so; they tortured him most cruelly for five days with a view to coercing him to agree to their proposal. But he was adamant as a rock. Nothing could shake him or make him agree 'to abjure his faith or perjure his soul to preserve his muddy vesture of decay.' He remained firm and perfectly calm. He was willing to lay down his life rather than to give his faith. His tortures were made more and more severe and cruel still. But they failed to shake him. On November 11, 1675, they killed his companions before his very eyes. Bhai Mati Das was bound between two pillars and cut down with a saw. Bhai Dayal Das was boiled to death in a cauldron of boiling water. Bhai Sati Das was roasted alive with oil soaked cotton wrapped round his body. Thus did the Guru's companions sacrifice their lives for their faith, with God's Name on their lips, and their eyes fixed on the Guru's face. But then the emperor's order had been received about what was to be done to the Guru. It said, 'Tell him that if he claims to be a true prophet sent by God to preach a religion, he should show some miracles in support of his claims. If he does not or cannot show any miracle, he should be told to accept Islam. if he refuses to do that, he should be executed. The emperor's men informed the Guru of the choice offered to him by the emperor. The Guru replied, 'True man of God never perform miracles in order to save themselves from suffering or hardship. They do not perform miracles to prove their greatness, either. I will not show any miracles. I will not accept Islam. Do with me as you like. I would prefer to lay down my life in sympathy with the oppressed and helpless Brahmans of Kashmir.

After the Guru had thus announced his decision about the choices offered by the emperor, he was led out of his cage to an open space near Chandani Chowk. He was allowed to bath at a well nearby. After bathing, the Guru went and sat under a banyan tree. The executioner stood near him with his drawn sword. The Guru said to him, 'When I conclude my prayers, I shall bow to God. Do you work at that movement.' The Guru began to recite Japji. Then he offered prayer to God and bowed to Him. Guru's head was cut off by itself before the executioner sword touched the Guru's head because the Guru was blessed from his father, Guru Har Gobind, that no one will be able to kill the Guru with any weapon. This occurred on the 11th of November, 1675 A.D. A large crowd had appeared there to witness the execution. At the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded, stands the magnificent Gurdwara named Sis Ganj. The Guru's body was publicly exposed in the streets of Delhi, to serve as a warning to the 'infidels'. It was announced that nobody was permitted to remove the Guru's dead body. Strong guards were posted to prevent its being taken away. However, a daring Ranghreta Sikh, named Bhai Jaita, belonging to the sweeper class, managed to take possession of the Guru's head. Concealing it in a bag he hurried with it to Anandpur. There he presented it to Guru's son. Guru Gobind Singh, who was yet a mere child, was deeply affected at the extreme devotion of the Ranghreta. He flung his arms around Bhai Jaita's neck and declared, 'Ranghreta Guru Ka Beta' (Ranghreta is Guru's own son). The head was then cremated with due rites. At the place of its cremation stands a gurdwara named Sis Ganj Anandpur.

A severe, blinding dust-storm began to blow on the following day. A daring, devoted Lubana Sikh, named Lakhi Shah, decided to take advantage of the storm. Along with some of his tribesmen, he loaded cotton on to some carts and drove them towards the place where the Guru's body lay. He managed to take up the body and load it on a cart. Thus loaded and concealed, the Guru's body was taken to the Lubanas' huts outside the city. Lakhi Shah placed it in his own hut. He made a heap of firewood in his hut. He placed the Guru's body on the heap. He covered it with more firewood. He then set fire to his hut. He made it known that his hut had caught fire by accident. His hut and few others were reduced to ashes. Thus it was that the Guru's body was cremated by Lakhi Shah and his companions. They all then said prayers and thanked the Lord for His having helped them in performing their sacred duty. A grand Gurdwara, named Rakab Ganj, stands at the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur's headless body was cremated. Aurangzeb's orders were thus carried out. Guru Tegh Bahadur, 'Champion of the Hindus' was executed. Thus did the Guru "gain martydom which stands unparalleled in the history of the world. It is true that there have been, in the past and since then, innumerable martyrs who had, or have, died for their faith or in defense of their countries. But, Guru Tegh Bahadur died for the freedom of conscience and conviction of people belonging to a faith other than his own. He did not believe in Brahmanism. In fact, the Guru's Sikh faith had discarded the Brahmanical ways of life. Yet, he stood for their freedom of belief as God-created human beings, in opposition to the narrow sectarianism of the subjects into his own way of thinking. This to Guru Tegh Bahadur was against the spirit of humanism and human equality for which he stood and sacrificed his life." (Dr Ganda Singh)

Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed. But he is not dead. He can never die. What was mortal of him, his body of flesh and bones, of course, disappeared from mortals' eyes of flesh. But he lives, and shall ever live, in the hearts of all who value the noble, lofty, principles which he preached and practiced, and for which he died. He lives, and shall ever live with us in the hundreds of soul-inspiring Sacred Songs which he composed and sang. He lives, and shall ever live, in the hearts of millions and millions of his devout followers and admirers. According to a prominent Hindu historian, Guru Tegh Bahadur's 'execution was universally regarded by Hindus as a sacrifice for their faith'. The felt grateful to the Guru for what he did for them. As long, therefore, as this feeling of gratitude lives in their hearts, so long will Guru Tegh Bahadur, Champion of the Hindus, be alive for them. One immediate result of Guru's death was significant and wholesome. We know that Aurangzeb was burning with zeal to convert all Hindus to Islam. The fire of indignation and revenge cooled the fire of his fanatic zeal. The Hindus were allowed to live on in his empire. But for that change, they would all have been made to become Muslims. Hindus in India are a living monument of what the Guru did for their faith. They live because the Gur died for their sake.

One thing more. The spirit of Guru Tegh Bahadur passed on into the body of his son, Guru Gobind Singh. The latter was gifted with unique practical wisdom and foresight. He made a note of the fire of 'indignation and revenge'. He took effective steps to harness these sentiments. He decided to direct them into effective channels. He created a whole community of saint-warriors. The five of 'indignation and revenge' was alive in them. The spirit which he got from his martyred father he passed onto his Khalsa. The Khalsa destroyed the tyrants who had been forcing their religion on others. Their empire was gone. That was another consequence of Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom. It altered the whole course of the subsequent history of the land. As another prominent Hindu historian writes: 'Few religious execution had such far-reaching consequences as that of the Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, which exercised a decisive influence on the subsequent history of the Punjab'. Thus, we see that even after his execution, Guru Tegh Bahadur's spirit and personality have continued to live and work among us. He has made unique and wonderful achievements. Who can say that he is dead ? He lives still and shall ever live. His murders are no more.

thanks to Sikh History Book 5 by Kartar Singh ji.