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The Guru who martyred for freedom to practise faith

The Guru who martyred for freedom to practise faith
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Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru undertook the supreme sacrifice for the protection of the most fundamental of human rights — the right of a person to freely practice his or her religion without interference or hindrance. In the modern times we tend to take this freedom for granted – but in 1675, millions of people were denied this basic right. His martyrdom day falls today.

To give one’s life for a cause is a difficult and highly challenging undertaking. Many in the human history have given their lives for their own personal reason; however, what is astonishing in the case of the ninth Sikh Guru is the fact that the Guru was not protecting the right of his ‘own people’ called the Sikhs to practice their religion instead the rights of the non-Sikhs, the peace-loving people from Kashmir.

Today Gurduwara Sis Ganj, Chandani Chowk in Delhi stands at the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded, while Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, Delhi stands at the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur’s headless body was cremated by Lakhi Shah Vanjara, one of the Guru’s devotees, who had managed to rescue the Guru’s body from the Mughals, setting his home afire, in order to cremate the Guru Sahib’s body.

Guruji, whose original name was Tyag Mal (master of renunciation) spent his childhood in Amritsar. In his early years he learnt Gurmukhi, Hindi, Sanskrit and Indian religious philosophy from Bhai Gurdas, and archery and horsemanship from Baba Budha while his father Guru Hargobind, master of miri and piri (temporal and spiritual components of life), taught him swordsmanship. Only 13 years old, he asked his father to accompany him into battle as his village was attacked by the Mughals in a battle over Shah Jahan’s hawk. During the battle he had weighed into the enemies with abandon, slashing his sword right and left.

After the battle was won, (the battle of Kartarpur) the victorious Sikhs returning home honoured their new hero with a new ‘warriors’ name. And so Tyag Mal was renamed Tegh Bahadur (Tegh means wielder of the sword and Bahadur means brave). The young Tegh Bahadur soon showed a bent in the direction of the earlier Sikhs Gurus who had passed the ‘seli’ of Nanak (the sacred headgear of renunciation) to each new Guru. He delved into his studies and spent his time in meditation living up to his given name - master of renunciation. He was married to Mata Gujri at Kartarpur in 1632.

After the untimely death of his son Bhai Gurditta the Guru Hargobind seemingly started grooming his grandson Har Rai to sit next on Guru Nanak’s seat. Har Rai became Guru Hargobind’s successor in 1644. Shortly after this Guru Hargobind asked Tegh Bahadur to move with his wife and his mother to the village of Bakala. He had told his wife, who had wanted her son to follow the father as Guru, that one day he would become Guru and have a son and that both would become famous in their fight for justice.

For the next 20 years the master of renunciation spent most of his time in an underground room absorbed in meditation.

Before Guru Har Kishan passed to God’s court, he indicated that his successor would be found in Bakala. Earlier a wealthy Sikh trader Makhan Shah whose ship was caught in a violent storm prayed to God that if his ship reached port safely he would give 500 golden Mohurs to his Guru Har Kishan.

The ship landed safely and proving to be a Sikh of great integrity he headed to Delhi where the young Guru had travelled at the command of Aurangzeb. Along the way he learnt of Guru Har Kishan’s passing away and of his mentioning that the next Guru was in the village of Bakala.

He arrived in Bakala to find 22 members of the Sodhi dynasty styling themselves as the Guru and taking donations from the Sikhs. He decided to give each Guru 2 gold pieces and each Guru was pleased and blessed him.

Makhan Shah was about to leave the village when a child told him of yet another holy man meditating nearby in an underground room. Again Makhan Shah bowed and gave 2 gold pieces and turned to leave. Guru Tegh Bahadur said: ‘Why have you broken your promise? When you prayed to God to save you and your ship from the terrible storm you promised 500 gold pieces to the Guru.’ Makhan Shah was overjoyed, he gave the rest of the gold as promised and ran to the roof shouting — The True Guru has been found, O Sikhs come seek his blessing. The false Gurus all ran away.

The orders for his arrest were issued by emperor Aurangzeb as soon as he received reports of his declared intention. An entry in Bhatt Vahi Multani Sindhi reads: Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Ninth Guru, …was taken into custody by Nur Muhammad Khan Mirza of Ropar Police post, on Savan 12,1732 /12th July 1675, at Malikpur Ranghran, Pargana Ghanaula, and sent to Sirhind.

Along with him were arrested Diwan Mati Das and Sati Das, sons of Hira Nand Chhibbar, and Dyal Das, son of Mai Das. They were kept in custody at Bassi Pathana for four months. The pitiless captors imposed much atrocity on the Guru. He was then cast into an iron cage and taken to Delhi, where he arrived on 4 November 1675.

Guru was beheaded on 11 November 1675, Bhai Jaita consecrated Guru’s severed head to Anandpur Sahib were it was cremated by Tegh Bahadur’s son Gobind Singh, who became the 10th and the last Guru. A severe storm had struck after the execution and Bhai Lakhi Shah carried Guru’s body to his nearby house, which he then set on fire to conceal the cremation of his Guru’s body. It is said that Bhai Jaita’s own father volunteered to be beheaded to cover the loss of the Guru’s body. Many of the Pandits became Sikhs, their leader Kirpa Ram was baptised as a Sikh and died fighting the Mughals with Guru Gobind Singh’s sons.
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