Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji

Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji - Guru from (1665 – 1675)

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji revered by the Sikhs as Srisht-di-Chadar (Protector of humanity), was the ninth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism. He had become Guru on 16 April, 1664, following the footsteps of his grand-nephew and the eighth Guru, Guru Har Krishan Ji.

A poet, a thinker, and a warrior, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji carried forward the light of sanctity and divinity of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the subsequent Sikh Gurus. His spiritual writings, detailing varied themes such as, the nature of God, human attachments, body, mind, sorrow, dignity, service, death, and deliverance, are registered in the form of 116 poetic hymns in the sacred scripture, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. To spread the message of Sikhism, the Guru traveled extensively through the Indian subcontinent, setting up several new preaching centers. He founded the town of Chak-Nanki in Punjab, later enlarged by the tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, into the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib.

In May 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was approached by Hindu Pandits from the Kashmir region, seeking the Guru's intercession against the forced conversions of Hindus to Islam by the Mughal rulers of India. For supporting the Hindu Pandits by resisting these forced conversions, and for himself refusing to convert to Islam, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji was publicly executed via beheading at the imperial capital of Delhi on the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb. Today, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib stand at the sites of beheading and cremation of Guru Ji’s body. Along with Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, three other Sikhs, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, and Bhai Dyal Das, were also executed.

Early life

Guru Ji whose original name was Tyag Mal (Master of Renunciation) spent his childhood at Amritsar. In his early years he learned Gurmukhi, Hindi, Sanskrit and Indian religious philosophy from Bhai Gurdas, and archery and horsemanship from Baba Budha while his father Guru Hargobind Ji, Master of Miri and Piri taught him swordsmanship. Only 13 years old, he asked his father to accompany him into battle as his village was attack by Painde Khan and 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 honored their new hero with a new 'warriors' name. And so Tyag Mal Ji was renamed Tegh Bahadur Ji (lit. Brave sword wielder or Best sword wielder).(Tegh = wielder of the sword. Bahadur (originally meaning brave was by that time being also used as a superlative meaning better or best). 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 Ji 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 Ji became Guru Hargobind's successor in 1644. Shortly after this Guru Hargobind asked Tegh Bahadur Ji 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 Krishan Ji 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 Krishan.

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 learned of Guru Har Krishan's passing 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 Ji 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.

Becomes Sikh Guru

The responsibility of instructing and guiding the Sikh community was now of Guru Tegh Bahadur's. He was the focal point of veneration of the Sikhs. They came singly and in batches to seek spiritual solace and inspiration. And by his teachings and practise, he moulded their religious and social conscience.

As had been the custom since Guru Har Gobind, Guru Tegh Bahadur kept a splendid lifestyle. He had his armed attendance and other marks of royalty. But he himself lived austerely. Sikh or other documents make no mention of any clash with the ruling power having occurred during his time.

Visit to Harmandar Sahib

Soon after the public announcement by Makhan Shah, the Guru with a party of Sikhs travelled to Amritsar to pay obeisance at the Harmandar Sahib. However on his arrival at this sacred shrine, the Guru was rebuffed by the Sodhi family Sardars who then had control of the Gurdwara and he was not allowed to enter the main section of the complex but went as far as the Thara Sahib - see Structure of Harmandar Sahib.

The party found that the doors of this premier Sikh shrine were suddenly shut and they were refused admittance. The reason for this action was that the greedy "masands" (bishops) of Amritsar had acknowledged Guru Arjan Dev ji's elder brother Prithi Chand to be their guru. It was under the instructions of Harji, the impostor (Mina) guru of that time, that the doors of the Golden Temple were closed to Guru Tegh Bahadur ji.

The Guru waited nearby for a little while. This place is now known as "Thara Sahib" - the Pillar of Patience. But when the doors were not opened, Guru ji went away and stayed in a nearby village of Wala in the humble dwelling of a peasant couple. Later, the women of Amritsar came out and repented for the shameful behaviour of the masands of Amritsar. Highly pleased at the sincere devotion and courage of the women of Amritsar, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji said, "Ever blessed by God be the women of Amritsar."

Visit to Harmandar Sahib

Soon after the public announcement by Makhan Shah, the Guru with a party of Sikhs travelled to Amritsar to pay obeisance at the Harmandar Sahib. However on his arrival at this sacred shrine, the Guru was rebuffed by the Sodhi family Sardars who then had control of the Gurdwara and he was not allowed to enter the main section of the complex but went as far as the Thara Sahib - see Structure of Harmandar Sahib.

The party found that the doors of this premier Sikh shrine were suddenly shut and they were refused admittance. The reason for this action was that the greedy "masands" (bishops) of Amritsar had acknowledged Guru Arjan Dev ji's elder brother Prithi Chand to be their guru. It was under the instructions of Harji, the impostor (Mina) guru of that time, that the doors of the Golden Temple were closed to Guru Tegh Bahadur ji.

The Guru waited nearby for a little while. This place is now known as "Thara Sahib" - the Pillar of Patience. But when the doors were not opened, Guru ji went away and stayed in a nearby village of Wala in the humble dwelling of a peasant couple. Later, the women of Amritsar came out and repented for the shameful behaviour of the masands of Amritsar. Highly pleased at the sincere devotion and courage of the women of Amritsar, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji said, "Ever blessed by God be the women of Amritsar."

Gobind becomes 10th Sikh Guru

He had his son, Gobind Rai consecrated Guru and successor on 8th July 1675. The ceremony that had taken place seven times before was repeated: The Guru place five coins and a coconut before his son as a symbol of the Guru ship passing from him to his son; Gobind Rai was now the Guru of the Sikhs at the age of 9 years.

Guru tegh Bahadur then left Anandpur for Delhi with 3 other Sikhs who knew as well the danger they were to face, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Dayal Das.

Mission starts in Punjab

The Guru made three successive visits to Kiratpur. On 21 August 1664, Guru Tegh Bahadur went there to console with Bibi Rup Kaur upon the passing away of her father, Guru Har Rai, and of her brother, Guru Har Krishan. The second visit was on 15 October 1664, at the death on 29 September 1664, of Mata Bassi, mother of Guru Har Rai. A third visit concluded a fairly extensive journey through Majha, Malwa region in Punjab and Bangar districts of the Punjab.

Crossing the Beas] and Sutlej] rivers, Guru Tegh Bahadur arrived in the Malwa. He visited Zira, and Moga and reached Darauli. He then sojourned in the Lakhi Jungle, a desolate and sandy tract comprising mainly present-day districts of Bhatinda and Faridkot.

According to the Guru kian Sakhian, Baisakhi of 1665 was celebrated at Sabo-ki Talwandi, now known as Damdama Sahib. This journey took Guru Tegh Bahadur up to Dhamdhan, near Jind, from where he returned to Kiratpur. The Dowager Rani Champa of Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh offered to give the Guru a piece of land in her state.

The Guru bought the site (which was about six miles away from Kiratpur Sahib) on payment of Rs 500. The land consisted of the villages of Lodhipur, Mianpur and Sahota. Here on the mound of Makhowal, Guru Tegh Bahadur ordained that a city be constructed. The original name of the city was Chakk Nanaki. However, later he would rename the city Anandpur - the City of Bliss and this was where the Khalsa was born.

However, the Guru did not stay at Anandpur or Kiratpur for long; he left most of its construction to be done during his absence.

Mission to the East

Soon after, during about late 1665 and 1666, the Guru undertook travels to the region east of Punjab and to Easter India to different parts of this region to preach the teachings of Guru Nanak. His places of visit included Uttar Pardesh, Bihar, Assam, Bengal and present-day Bangladesh. One reason for Guru Tegh Bahadur ji's travels to the East was his wish to visit and pay homage to various places that were associated with the previous visit by Guru Nanak.

These visits to places where core Sikh sangats (communities) existed created confidence and infuse renewed enthusiasm in the people; gave them moral and spiritual courage and a better and deeper understanding of Guru Nanak mission.

Leaving Anandpur, the Ninth Guru blessing various villages and towns, reached Kurukshetra. An eclipse of the Sun was due and there was a fair and a large gathering. The Guru took advantage of the occasion and went there. The Brahmans and some other people suggested to the Guru that he should bathe in the sacred tank and thus be purified.

The Guru smiled and said, "My friends, one cannot be purified simply by washing one's body since the polluted mind cannot be washed with water. It is only the True Name of Almighty God that can wash away all sins and emancipate the soul." By these means, the Guru imparted the message of Guru Nanak and dispelled superstition and empty ritualistic behaviour.

Oppression by the Mughals

But soon oppression and intolerance would again rear its ugly head. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered Hindu temples to be destroyed and that idol worship was to be stopped. He had a temple converted into a Mosque and slaughtered a cow inside it. He also had Hindus sacked from their government jobs and employed Muslims instead. Aurangzeb also ordered Gurdwaras to be destroyed, and he expelled many missionaries from the main cities. Despite some resistance after many years of persecution, people were being forced to take up Islam.

Bachitar-quote-1web.jpg P.N.K. Bamzi’s book, A History of Kashmir describes those days:

Iftikhar Khan… …was using force to convert the Pandits in Kashmir to Islam. Some pious men among the Pandits then met and decided to go to Amarnath and invoke the mercy of Lord Siva (at their sacred cave:editor) for deliverance from the tyrannies of the bigot. At the Amarnath cave, one of the pandits saw in a dream Lord Siva, who told him to go to Tegh Bahadur, the Ninth Sikh Guru, in the Punjab and ask for his help to save the Hindu religion. He spoke to his companions about the revelation. About 500 proceeded to Anandpur where Guru Tegh Bahadur was living.

Kashmiri pandits and Guru Tegh Bahadur

Aurangzeb, being clever, decided if he could convert the revered Brahmin Pandits of Kashmir, then that would be millions of followers converted. Threatened with conversion or death, the Pandits overcome by panic, came in a delegation to Chakk Nanaki, Pargana Kahlur (from a contemporary entry in the Bhat Vahi (diary) of the purohit of Talauda in Jind Pargana) and requested Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji’s help.

Hearing the serious nature of the conversation, Guru Ji’s 9 year old son Gobind Rai Ji told his father what the problem was. The Guru told his son of the Pandits dilemma and said that it would take a holy man literally laying down his life to intercede. Gobind Rai responded “Who would be better than you to defend the poor Brahmins”. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji decided to stand up for the right of freedom of worship and told the delegation to tell Aurangzeb that if he could convert Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, they would gladly convert.

Gobind becomes 10th Sikh Guru

He had his son, Gobind Rai consecrated Guru and successor on 8th July 1675. The ceremony that had taken place seven times before was repeated: The Guru place five coins and a coconut before his son as a symbol of the Guru ship passing from him to his son; Gobind Rai was now the Guru of the Sikhs at the age of 9 years.

Guru tegh Bahadur then left Anandpur for Delhi with 3 other Sikhs who knew as well the danger they were to face, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Dayal Das.