The Ninth Master Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621 - 1675)
Tegh Bahadur was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind and Bibi Nanki and
was born at Amritsar on April 1, 1621. From a young age Tegh Bahadur
was trained in the martial arts of swordsmanship and horse riding as
well as religious training by the wise Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas.
In February 1633 Tegh Bahadur was married to Gujari daughter of Lal
Chand and Bishan Kaur. During his young years Tegh Bahadur fought along
his fathers side but after Guru Hargobind's fierce and bloody battle
in 1634 at Kartarpur he turned to the path of renunciation and meditation.
When Guru Hargobind settled down at Kiratpur to live the rest of his
life in peace, Tegh Bahadur spent nine years with his father before
settling down at the isolated village of Bakala in 1656 and retired
to a life of contemplation. He became known as "Tyag Mal" meaning "the
Master of Renunciation". Here Tegh Bahadur would spend many long years
in meditation and prayer.
did not choose Tegh Bahadur as his successor because the Sikhs needed
a leader of men, something still lacking in his young son, who had now
chosen a path of renunciation. Instead Guru Hargobind chose Guru Har
Rai his grandson as his natural successor. Guru Har Rai in turn chose
his youngest son Guru Harkrishan as his successor. When Guru Harkrishan
had suddenly fallen ill at Delhi in 1664, before his death, being too
weak to move or speak the Guru had said his successor was "Baba Bakala".
Following the untimely
death of Guru Harkrishan large numbers of Sikhs flocked to the village
of Bakala looking for the new Guru. When the Sikhs went in large numbers
to Bakala to find the Guru, they were instead confronted by twenty two
members of the Sodhi family, each claiming that they were the Guru and
successor as named by Guru Harkrishan. The Sikhs were in a quandary
as to who was really the true Guru?
Meanwhile a wealthy
merchant Makhan Shah had his ships carrying valuable cargo caught in
a fierce storm at sea. He vowed to offer five hundred gold coins to
the Guru if his goods safely reached home. His wish was fulfilled and
his merchandise safely arrived at their port. Makhan Shah immediately
set our for Delhi where he received the tragic news that Guru Harkrishan
had passed away and that his successor was at Bakala. Makhan Shah set
out for Bakala to pay his homage to the Guru. When he finally got there
he was confronted with all the same quandary as the rest of the Sikhs,
who was the real Guru? Being a businessman Makhan Shah decided that
he would pay homage to all of the twenty two claimants and placed two
gold coins before each of them as tribute. When he had visited all of
the claimants, a child pointed out to him that a holy man lived across
the street. Makhan Shah decided that he may as well pay him tribute
also. When Makhan Shah entered the house he found that Guru Tegh Bahadur
was in meditation. He was told that Tegh Bahadur did not like to receive
visitors but spent his time in meditation. Makhan Shah waited until
he met the Guru and placed two gold coins before him. At this Guru Tegh
Bahadur smiled and said to Makhan Shah, "I thought that you had pledged
five hundred coins". Makhan Shah became so elated that he kissed the
Gurus feet and started shouting from the rooftop "I've found the Guru,
found the Guru!". All the Sikhs rushed to the house of the quiet saint
and when they heard the story there was much rejoicing for many days.
Thus the pious, humble saint Tegh Bahadur was acclaimed as being the
true Guru of the Sikhs and natural successor of Guru Harkrishan.
Sikhs flocked to
see the Guru and presented him with many gifts and offerings. One who
was not so happy about the whole affair was the troublesome Dhir Mal,
grandson of Guru Hargobind who had wanted people to acclaim him as the
Guru since he was in possession of the Guru Granth Sahib written by
Guru Arjan Dev. Dhir Mal became so angry that he planned an assassination
attempt. He sent Shihan a masand (priest) loyal to him and some men
to attack the Guru while he slept. Dhir Mal's men attacked the house
of Guru Tegh Bahadur, shot the Guru and ransacked his belongings. Luckily
Guru Tegh Bahadur was not seriously wounded. In retaliation loyal Sikhs
raided Dhir Mal's house, looting it including the original copy of the
Guru Granth Sahib and presented all of the bounty to the Guru as revenge.
Guru Tegh Bahadur believed in forgiveness and ordered all of his property
returned, including the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Tegh Bahadur
now accepted the role of leading the Sikhs and set out on a number of
missionary journeys. He visited Kiratpur and then made his way to the
other great centers of Sikhism, Tarn Taran, Khadur Sahib, Goindwal and
Amritsar. At Amritsar Guru Tegh Bahadur bathed in the sacred pool but
he was refused entry into the Golden Temple which was under the control
of Harji, grandson of that other famous troublemaker to the Gurus, Prithi
Chand. Guru Tegh Bahadur then journeyed back to Kiratpur. Here he encountered
some Sodhi family jealousy and decided to found a new township. The
Guru acquired a tract of land from the raja of Kahlur and founded the
town of Chak Nanaki in 1665, named in honour of his mother (later to
be known as Anandpur Sahib). The Guru now continued his journeys to
spread the messages and teachings of Sikhism among the masses across
his wife and mother Guru Tegh Bahadur traveled across the country. The
Guru traveled throughout Punjab, wherever he would stop the Guru would
get wells dug for the people and community kitchens set up. Guru Tegh
Bahadur continued his tour through Haryana and arrived at Delhi. Here
the Guru met the congregations of Delhi who came out in large numbers
to see the Guru. The emperor Aurangzeb was away from Delhi at this time.
Guru Tegh Bahadur then continued his mission of preaching to the masses,
visiting Kurekshetra, Agra, Ittawa and Allahabad. Wherever the Guru
stopped he would preach about honest work and charity. The Guru would
also give away all the offerings that he would receive from devotees.
At Priyag, the Gurus wife Gujri conceived a child. The Guru then traveled
onto the holy Hindu city of Banaras and then onto Gaya and Patna. Guru
Tegh Bahadur was requested by custodians of the various temples that
he visited to perform rituals and ceremonies for himself and his ancestors,
but the Guru refused saying, "He who trusts in God and makes an honest
living to share with others and injures no one, nor harbors ill-will
against another need perform on other rituals. His soul ever stays in
health. And, as for the ancestors, they gather the reward of what they
themselves have sown and no one can bless or curse them after they are
Guru Tegh Bahadur
now arrived at Patna where he stayed for some time. The Guru left his
family here, as his wife Mata Gujri was expecting their child and moved
onwards with his tour to Dacca and the eastern most parts of India not
visited since the time of Guru Nanak. Sikh congregations were very jubilant
to see their Guru. In December of 1666 while on his eastern tour Guru
Tegh Bahadur received the news that he had been blessed with a child,
a son named Gobind Rai. This eastern tour would last three years as
Guru Tegh Bahadur visited as many people as he could. While in Assam
in 1668 Guru Tegh Bahadur was able to achieve a peace treaty between
the ruler of Ahom and a large force sent by Aurengzeb under the command
of Raja Ram Singh of Amber. In 1669-1670 Guru Tegh Bahadur started the
journey homeward and traveled to Patna to see his young son Gobind Rai
for the first time. Here Guru Tegh Bahadur spent over a year with his
family training his son in the Sikh Scriptures, horse riding and swordsmanship.
Guru Tegh Bahadur then sent his family onto Punjab while he continued
his missionary work. The Guru finally returned home to Anandpur Sahib
in 1672-1673. Here thousands of devotees flock to see and hear the Guru.
While the Guru
attended to his devotees at Anandpur, things in the country were rapidly
deteriorating under the tyrannous rule of emperor Aurengzeb. Since coming
to power by imprisoning his father and killing his two brothers, Aurengzeb
had been consolidating his power base. After ten years he now began
to apply his power throughout the country. Aurengzeb was an orthodox
Muslim who dreamed of purging India of all 'infidels' and converting
it into a land of Islam. Aurengzeb had no tolerance for other religions
and proceeded on a brutal campaign of repression. Famous Hindu temples
throughout the country were demolished and mosques built in their place.
Hindu idols were placed in the steps of mosques to be trodden on by
the feet of Muslim pilgrims. Aurangzeb issued a number of harsh decrees.
In 1665 he forbade Hindus to display illuminations at Diwali festivals.
In 1668 he forbade Hindu Jatras, in 1671 he issued an order that only
Muslims could be landlords of crown lands, and called upon provincial
Viceroys to dismiss all Hindu clerks. In 1669 he issued a general order
calling upon all governors of all provinces to destroy with a willing
hand the schools and temples of the infidels; and they were told to
put a stop to the teachings and practicing of idolatrous forms of worship.
In 1674 lands held by Hindus in Gujarat, in religious grants were all
In this climate
of intolerance the viceroy of Kashmir Iftikhar Khan took to the task
of forcibly converting the Hindu population to Islam by the sword. The
Hindu Brahmin Pandits of Kashmir were among the most highly learned
and orthodox of the Hindu leadership. Aurangzeb felt if they could be
converted, the rest of the country would easily follow. He did not want
to see the talik (holy mark on the forehead) or janaeu (sacred thread)
on any of his subjects. Given this ultimatum, a large delegation of
500 Kashmiri Pandits decided to journey to Anandpur Sahib to seek the
help of Guru Tegh Bahadur. This delegation was led by Pandit Kirpa Ram
Datt (who would later on become the Sanskrit teacher of Guru Gobind
Singh and eventually become a Khalsa and died fighting in the battle
of Chamkaur). The Pandits met the Guru and explained their dire predicament
to the Guru and requested the Guru to intercede on their behalf. As
the Guru was pondering over the issue his nine year old son Gobind Rai
walked into the room, noticing the serious and gloomy mood in the room
the young Gobind asked his father what was happening. Guru Tegh Bahadur
replied, "Unless a holy man lays down his head for the sake of the poor
Brahmins, there is no hope for their escape from imperial tyranny."
Young Gobind replied, "Revered father, who would be better equipped
for this than yourself?" Guru Tegh Bahadur hugged his son and wept for
joy. "I was only worried about the future, for you are far too young".
"Leave me to God", Gobind replied, "and accept the challenge of the
Even though Guru
Nanak had refused to wear the sacred thread when he was young, the Gurus
still believed in the freedom of religion and the right of the Hindus,
Muslims and Sikhs to live in peace and practice their own religions.
With this Guru Tegh Bahadur laid down the gauntlet in the fight for
freedom of religion and told the Pandits to inform Aurangzeb that the
Brahmins would gladly accept and embrace Islam if Guru Tegh Bahadur
can be convinced to do so. Guru Tegh Bahadur made preparations to leave
for Delhi. he bid farewell to his family and followers and dictated
that his son Gobind Rai should be installed as the next Guru. Accompanying
the Guru on his journey and also prepared to accept the consequences
of whatever happened were Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Dyala and Bhai Sati Das.
As soon as Aurangzeb heard the news he ordered the immediate arrest
of the Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur and his party were arrested soon after
they left Anandpur Sahib and taken in chains to Delhi.
When brought before
Aurangzeb, he was asked why he was hailed as the Guru or prophet and
called 'Sacha Padsah' (the True King) and if he really believed in his
being one he should perform a miracle to justify his claim. Guru Tegh
Bahadur reprimanded the emperor for his blind orthodoxy and his persecution
of other faiths, "Hinduism may not be my faith, and I may believe not
in the supremacy of Veda or the Brahmins, nor in idol worship or caste
or pilgrimages and other rituals, but I would fight for the right of
all Hindus to live with honour and practice their faith according to
their own rites." The Guru answered further, "Every ruler of the world
must pass away, but not the Word of God or His Saint. This is how people
not only call me a True King but have done so through the two centuries
before me in respect of my House and also in respect of others who preceded
them and identified themselves not with the temporal and the contingent,
but with the eternal and the ever dying." The Guru refused to perform
any miracles saying, "this is the work of charlatans and mountebanks
to hoodwink the people. Men of God submit ever to the Will of God."
Guru Tegh Bahadur refused to embrace Islam, saying "For me, there is
only one religion - of God - and whosoever belongs to it, be he a Hindu
or a Muslim, him I own and he owns me. I neither convert others by force,
nor submit to force, to change my faith." Aurangzeb was enraged and
ordered Guru Tegh Bahadur to be forced to convert to Islam through torture
or be killed.
Guru Tegh Bahadur
was subjected to many cruelties, he was kept in an iron cage and starved
for many days. The Guru was made to watch as Bhai Mati Das the devoted
Sikh was tied between two pillars and his body split in two by being
sawn alive. Bhai Dyala was boiled alive in a cauldron of boiling water
and Bhat Sati Das was wrapped in cotton wool and set on fire. The Guru
bore these cruelties without flinching or showing any anger or distress.
Finally on November 11, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur was publicly beheaded
with the sword of the executioner as he prayed. The Gurus body was left
in the dust as no one dared to pick up the body for fear of the emperors
reprisal. A severe storm swept through the city and under the cover
of darkness a Sikh named Bhai Jaita managed to collect the Guru's sacred
head and carried it off to Anandpur Sahib to the Guru's son. Another
Sikh Bhai Lakhi Shah who had a cart, was able to smuggle the Gurus headless
body to his house. Since a public funeral would be too dangerous, Bhai
Lakhi Shah cremated the body by setting his house on fire. Meanwhile
the head was taken to the grief stricken young Guru Gobind Singh and
the widow Mata Gujari. On November 16, 1675 at Anandpur Sahib, a pyre
of sandalwood was constructed, sprinkled with roses and the head of
Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated by young Guru Gobind Singh.
Thus ended the
earthly reign of the ninth Nanak, Guru Tegh Bahadur. Never in the annals
of history has the religious leader of one religion sacrificed his life
to save the freedom of another religion.