The Shaheedi Divas of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of the Sikhs, who resisted the Mughals’ forced conversions and was executed on Aurangzeb’s orders in 1675, is observed on this day, November 24, in his honor.
In Chandni Chowk in Delhi, there is a Gurdwara called Sis Ganj Sahib that stands where Guru Tegh Bahadur was put to death.
Tegh Bahadur was born in Amritsar on April 21, 1621, to Mata Nanki and Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru who also established the idea of warrior saints and organized an army against the Mughals.
Tyag Mal was the nickname given to Tegh Bahadur as a child for his ascetic lifestyle. He spent his early years in Amritsar learning Gurmukhi, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Indian religious philosophy from Bhai Gurdas while Baba Budha instructed him in swordsmanship, archery, and horseback riding.
When he distinguished himself in a battle against a Mughal chieftain, he was just 13 years old. In the conflict, he demonstrated courage and skill with a sword, earning the moniker Tegh Bahadur.
The guruship became hereditary after Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru. In 1644, when Tegh Bahadur’s older brother Gurditta passed away at a young age, his 14-year-old son Guru Har Rai assumed the guruship. He held the position until 1661 when he passed away at the age of 31.
Guru Har Rai’s five-year-old son Guru Har Krishan succeeded him, but he died in Delhi in 1664 before he turned eight. When questioned about his successor, he reportedly gave the name of his grand uncle, “Baba Bakala.”
In his home in Bakala, Guru Tegh Bahadur had a “bhora” (basement) built, where he spent the majority of his time in meditation. As they were soundproof and had a consistent temperature, “bhoras” were regarded in the old Indian culture as being excellent for meditation. But since Guru Har Krishan had not specifically mentioned Guru Tegh Bahadur, a number of rivals emerged.
According to legend, Makhan Shah, a wealthy trader whose ship was caught in a storm at sea, had prayed that if it was saved, he would give 500 gold mohurs (coins) to the ruling guru. Dr. Hardev Singh from the Department of Religious Studies at Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University, Fatehgarh Sahib, confirmed this. However, he discovered that Har Krishan had passed away and that there was a queue of claimants at Bakala when he arrived in Delhi. He allegedly made the decision that whoever the true guru was would request the precise amount he had pledged in his prayers.
When Tegh Bahadur was mentioned as being in the “bhora” for meditation, he had run out of choices. Tegh Bahadur informed Makhan Shah that he had offered 500 coins after only one glance. He added, “It’s not wise to test your guru.” An ecstatic Makhan Shah is said to have run to the rooftop and shouted “Guru ladho re! (I have found the guru!)”
At the time, Aurangzeb was the Mughal emperor in charge. There were conversions, either by official decree or under duress. People who converted to Christianity after being charged with a crime or misdemeanor were pardoned.
Guru Tegh Bahadur, who began traveling widely over Malwa and Majha, first ran afoul of the law when he began to doubt the custom of offering prayers at the graves of pirs and faqirs. He exhorted his followers to be bold and nirvair, and preached against this practice (without envy).
His sermons, which he delivered in a blend of Braj and Sadukhri, were easily comprehended from Bengal to Sindh. People all around North India connected with the metaphors he employed. According to Dr. Hardev, Guru Tegh Bahadur frequently made references to Panchali (Draupadi) and Ganika in his sermons and maintained that Hindustan may restore its religiosity if it found refuge in one God.
As his message spread, a local chieftain at Dhamtan near Jind in modern-day Haryana arrested him and transported him to Delhi on bogus allegations of collecting money from locals. However, Raja Ram Singh of Amer, whose family had long been devotees of the gurus, stepped in and held the guy in his residence for almost two months until he was able to persuade Aurangzeb that the guru was a spiritual man without any desire to advance politically.
Previously, Raja Jai Singh of Amer gave land to a Dharamshala so the gurus might stay there when they were in Delhi. On this location lies the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara of today.
Martyrdom of the Guru Tegh Bahadur
A Kashmiri Brahmin named Kirpa Das came to the Guru back in Anandpur Sahib and asked him for protection on behalf of a group of people from the Kashmir Valley. Das informed Guru Tegh Bahadur that local chieftains had threatened him with retaliation unless he converted. The guru pledged his security to Das and his crew and instructed them to inform the Mughals that they should first attempt to convert the guru.
This was seen as an open challenge to Aurangzeb’s power. Kavi Sukha Singh’s 1797 biography of Guru Gobind Singh, “Sri Gur Bilas Patshahi Dasmi,” claims that the Guru himself traveled to Delhi, exposed his name, and was then detained by the Mughals.
Sardar Kapur Singh, a historian, claimed in a paper titled “Who Killed Guru Tegh Bahadur?” that Aurangzeb had ordered the Guru’s public execution on November 11, 1675, because the Guru had refused to accept Islam.
Along with his three friends, Bhai Mati Das, who was torn to pieces, Bhai Sati Das, who was burned to death, and Bhai Dyala Ji, who was submerged in boiling water, he was tortured to death and beheaded at Chandni Chowk. They were urged to change their views right up until the very end, but they refused. On the spot where they were put to death in 1783, Gurdwara Sheesh Ganj was constructed.
Regarding the precise day of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom, there is some uncertainty. It used to be observed on November 11 until about a decade ago, but since some researchers tried to use the Nanakshahi calendar to determine the dates of significant Sikh historical events, it has been observed on November 24.
The alteration of calendars over time, according to Dr. Hardev Singh, is to blame for this uncertainty. “When Guru Ji was beheaded, the Islamic Hijri calendar was in use. Later, Sikh researchers began to rely on the lunisolar Bikrami Samvat calendar that has long been utilized in India. The Gregorian calendar was then introduced by the British. This caused some uncertainty.
There was disagreement a few years ago when some Sikh scholars attempted to use the Nanakshahi calendar to determine the dates of significant historical occurrences in Sikh history.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru who established the Khalsa, said of his father in the Vichitra Natak: “Dharam het saka jin kiya, sees diya par sir nahin diya (He sacrificed his life for dharma, he gave up his head, not honor).”
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