Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

On hearing what the Kashmiri Pandits had to say, the Governor was doubly glad. He had always regarded the growth of the Sikh community as an ever-increasing menace to the Muslim rule. He also knew that the Emperor wanted only a plausible pretext to give effect to his burning hatred for the Guru and his followers. Against the Hindus the pretext was ever ready. They worshipped gods and goddesses whom they represented as sharing power with God. This was infidelity. The Quranic injunctions against the infidels were clear and peremptory.’
But the Sikhs believed in One God, set up no rivals by His side. So, as far as their religion was concerned, there was nothing very objectionable. They were, however, not only firm and unshakable in their faith, and would not part with it even to save their lives, but they also encouraged the Hindus to follow their example. Thus they were a great nuisance. Their conversion or extermination would spread the glory of the Prophet’s religion. Their political ideas, too, which were gradually becoming visible, could not be tolerated for any length of time. Unless the Guru committed some offence againt the laws of the state, religious or secular, there could be no plausible pretext for hauling him up. But here was an opportunity for involving him and bringing him within the purview of the Quranic injunctions against the infidels. Though not 1. ‘And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other deities with God, wherever ye shall find them….But if they shall convert,….then let them go their way.’ (Quran, ix, 5,6), ‘Say to the infidels, if they desist from their unbelief, what is now past shall be forgiven them. But if they return to il….fight then against them till strife be at an end, and the religion be all of it God’s.’ (Quran, viii, 39-42).
‘With regard to the idolators of a non-Arabic country, Shafi maintains that destruction is incurred by them also: but other learned doctors agree that it is lawful to reduce them to slavery, thus allowing them, as it were, a respite during which it may please God to direct them into the right path, but making, at the same time, their persons and substance subservient to the cause of Islam.’
exactly an infidel himself, he was standing as an obstacle in the path of the progress of Islam. He was abetting infidelity and merited punishment as severe as the infildels. If the Guru could be made to yield, all his Sikhs and countless Hindus would, of their own free will, come into the fold of Islam. What a glory ! The Governor was glad that all his dreams were, at last, going to be realized. He would get rid of a dangerous person, win the pleasure of Aurangzeb, and secure for himself a seat in Paradise, by bringing into the fold of Islam a very large number of high-caste Hindus.
So he lost no time in informing the Emperor of what the Pandits had said to him, having added his own notes to heighten the effect.
On receipt of the report from the Governor of Kashmir, Aurangzeb despatched some soldiers to inform the Guru that he desired his presence at his court. The Guru had already started towards Delhi of his own accord. He had decided to interview the Emperor and try to dissuade him from oppressing his Hindu subjects. He wanted to see what peaceful persuasion and representation could accomplish. He could not sit still and lead a life of peace and meditation when the weak and the poor were being denied the elementary human right of religious freedom.
He would rather try to reform the oppressor, and, if necessary, lay down his life in the attempt. Accordingly the messengers were, informed of the Guru’s departure and destination. They were asked to tell the Emperor that the Guru would soon be with him.
The Guru did not go straight to Delhi. He wanted to make the maximum possible use of his time in furthering the cause so dear to him, namely, that of regenerating and revitalizing his people and preparing them for the call which his son and successor was to make for the liberation of the land. He undertook a long and hurried tour of the Malwa tract, visiting his Sikhs who lived in scattered villages and hutments, and instilling in them a spirit of scarifice and suffering for the sake of God, God’s creatures, Truth, and Liberty.
In due course, he reached Agra. There he revealed his identity.
He was arrested, put in irons, taken to Delhi under a heavy military guard, and thrown into a strongly guarded prison. The Emperor was not in Delhi at that time. He had gone towards Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) to quell a rebellion. He had, however, left orders about how the Guru was to be dealt with, when arrested. According to those orders, he was offered the alternative which, “as the learned Qazi Mughis-udDin had declared to Ala-ud-Din Khilji, all Muslim theologians, except the great and liberal Imam Hanifa, laid down for the Hindus, namely, Islam or death.” 1 He could save himself in another way, too, it was added, namely, by showing some miracle. The Guru refused to embrace Islam or to perform a miracle. Thereupon, he was placed under a still stronger guard and confined in an iron cage. The Emperor was informed of all this and his orders were sought about what to do. His final orders were received in the beginning of November, 1675 A.D. In accordance with them, the Guru was beheaded in the Chandni Chauk, Delhi, on the fifth day of the bright half of Maghar (or eleventh Maghar) 1732 BK/, November 11, 1675 A.D.
In this way Guru Tegh Bahadur made the supreme sacrifice for the sake of protecting the Hindu religion and with the object of preparing his people to free the country from the yoke of the foreign oppressors.
In this way did Guru Gobind Singh take the first significant, heroic step in his great career of sacrificing his all for the sake of his people and his motherland, and made the first sacrifice in that cause. In his autobiographic poem, the Vachittra Natak, Guru Gobind Singh has written about his father’s supreme sacrifice as follows :
“The Master thus protected the frontal mark and sacrificial thread of the Hindus; He performed a great historic deed in the Kalyuga;
He made the supreme sacrifice for the sake of holy men;
He gave his head but uttered not a groan;
He performed a great historic deed for the sake of dharma; He gave his head but swerved not from his resolve;
He refused to perform a miracle;
For God’s people would ever be ashamed to perform the tricks of mountebanks and cheats.
Having broken his potsherd on the head of Delhi’s King, 2 he departed to Eternal Abode of God.
None other ever performed such a deed as Guru Tegh Bahadur did.
A he departed hence, there was deep mourning in the world; Cries of grief rose from this earth, while those of welcome and joy were raised in the abode of gods.”
Some Sikh Gianis, for reasons and out of motives not far to seek, i.e. in order to please the then British rulers of India, gave rise to a story the hollowness of which may well be exposed here. It was proclaimed by them that once, during his imprisonment in Delhi, Guru Tegh Bahadur was drying his hair on the roof of the prison with his face to the west. Thinking that the Guru was looking at his harem, the Emperor remonstrated with him. In reply the Guru said, “I am looking 1. J.N. Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, p. 150.
2. That is, having made the king of Delhi responsible for his death.
not at the ladies of your harem, but for my hat-wearing Sikhs who will come from the far-off West and destroy your harem and your empire. ” The lesson which the Sikhs were asked to draw from this story was that the English had come into India at the Guru’s bidding, and hence, it behoved all Sikhs to be respectfully loyal to the English Raj under all circumstances and at all consequences. The story, which is a downright fabrication, has had its day. Now let us give it the quiet burial that it deserves.
The Guru was not permitted such freedom of movement as the story would have us believe. He was not a prisoner of State as understood now-a-days. He was kept in a narrow cell, and, afterwards, in an iron cage. His place of confinement was closely guarded, night and day. Moreover, even Aurangzeb could not have accused him of directing lustful glances at his ladies. He had heard and seen too much of the Guru’s purity of life and morals to have entertained such thoughts about him. He had offered to make him the highest Pir of the whole of Muslim India. We know how pure and strict the Emperor was in private life, and what great zeal he had for Islam. Could he choose as the supreme Pir of Muslim India one who had been suspected of and charged with casting impure glances at the ladies of his harem ? Or, conversely, could he suspect a person, whom he fain would place in the position of the highest religious authority, of such ignoble conduct as he is stated in this story to have done ? Above all, Aurangzeb was not in Delhi during the period of the Guru’s imprisonment or at the time of his martyrdom. He was away to Rawalpindi side to quell a rebellion there. No conversation could have taken place between him and the Guru. Whether hat-wearing people could be called Sikhs is a question which need not be discussed. All that need be said is that the Sikhs are forbidden to wear caps or hats.
After Guru Tegh Bahadur’s execution, his head and body were left exposed in the street to serve as a lesson to those who would resist the imperial decrees or the Islamic injunctions. Strong guards were placed to prevent their removal. At night, however, one Jaita 1 , a Ranghreta Sikh, belonging to the sweeper class, succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the guards and taking possession of the Guru’s head.
He hurried with it to Anandpur. There he presented it to the Guru’s son, Guru Gobind Singh. The latter was deeply touched with the dauntless courage and devotion of the Ranghreta. Flinging his arms 1. Bhai Jaita was later baptized and re-named Bhai Jiwan Singh. He proved a brave fighter and took a heroic part in all battles fought by the Guru. He died fighting in the battle of Chamkaur.
round Bhai Jaita’s neck, he declared, “Ranghretas are the Guru’s own sons. Here, through you, I embrace them all.”
Guru Gobind Singh cremated the head with due Sikh rites. A Gurdwara, called Sis Ganj, Anandpur, marks the site.
The Guru’s headless trunk was, on the following day, cleverly removed in a cart by a daring Labana Sikh, named Lakhi Shah. He took it to his hut outside the city, erected a pyre within the hut, placed the Guru’s body on the pyre, and set fire to his hut, in order to make out that it was all an accident. The place is marked by a Gurdwara called Rikab Ganj.
After the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, some Sikhs from
Delhi brought his last orders regarding Guruship, that is, regarding the appointment of his successor. In accordance with those orders, Guru Gobind Singh was formally installed on Gur-Gaddi some time in Maghar 1732 BK/ November, 1675 A.D. Baba Ram Kan war, a descendant of Baba Buddha, performed the ceremony.
The Guru was deeply grieved to learn from Lakhi Shah and others who had come from Delhi, that the execution of the ninth Guru had so thoroughly staggered and demoralized the Sikhs of Delhi, that none of them came forward to claim the dismembered body of the martyred Guru. Only a Ranghreta Sikh from Anandpur had the daring to pick up the head and a Labana Sikh, to carry away and cremate the body.
No body from the ‘high-class’ Sikhs had shown the courage of his convictions. On the contrary, when questioned by the officials whether they were Sikhs, they had all, except the Guru’s immediate followers, denied their religion.
The Guru saw in this a danger of backsliding among the Sikhs.
“It is possible”, he thought, “that the Sikhs may fall back into the great sea from which they have been taken out.” Hence he vowed that he would give such form and appearance to the Sikhs that even a single Sikh mixed up with lakhs of others would be at once and easily recognizable, without any enquiry or interrogatory. A distinctive form and appearance would serve another purpose, too. The Sikhs would have to be true and pure in order to maintain the dignity of their distinctive guise, so that none might have an occasion to say, “Fie ! You are a Sikh and you are behaving in such an un-Sikhlike fashion !” In this way.the Sikhs would stand out distinct from others not only in external appearance, but also in internal virtues and day-to-day life.