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The life and legacy of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji: The Ninth Guru

When you enter Delhi from Haryana through Singhu border the first thing you notice is a memorial dedicated to Ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji maintained by government of Delhi. As per the Delhi govt’s website “This complex has been constructed in the area of 11.87 acres with a 24 meter high central pylon with petals at the base represents the Guru & his strength and the three “C” arches denote his three followers and the monoliths represent the 10 Sikh Gurus’ with their sayings inscribed on them.”   Guru Tegh Bahadur ji is the epitome of supreme sacrifice for protecting Hindus under the terror reigns of Aurangzeb.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born to Guru Hargobind and Mata Nanaki on 1st April 1621 in the holy city of Amritsar, Punjab. Since childhood Guru Tegh Bahadur was well trained in swordsmanship and martial arts and was fond of horse riding.  By the time Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was of the age to go to school; Theology, Philosophy, History, Classical languages and military training became the essential part of the course curriculum taught at sikh institutions. He started his schooling at the age of 4 and a half years and was taken by Guru Hargobind ji to the wisest teacher of that time Bhai Buddha who taught Guru Hargobind ji also.

As years passed, the first battle fought by Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was battle of Kartarpur at the age of 14, against the imperialist forces of Shah Jahan who was overzealous of the popularity of Guru Hargobind Ji. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji fought valiantly alongside his brother and father and came unscathed after defeating the forces of Shah Jahan. 

Guru Hargobind singh ji left his body for heavenly abode in 1644 after announcing Guru Hari Rai, his grandson, as seventh Sikh guru. Guru Hari Rai ji guided the Sikh panth for about 17 years till his death at the age of 31. Guru Hari Rai openly supported Dara Shikoh as the successor for Mughal throne in Delhi instead of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb killed his own brothers in battle of succession and crowned himself as the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb asked Guru Hari Rai to present himself to the royal court. Guru Hari Rai send his elder son Ram Rai instead, with a copy of handwritten ‘Adi Granth’. Discussions started on the sikh philosophy in the court when Aurangzeb asked Ram Rai whether there are any verses critical to Muslims in Adi Granth. Ram Rai fearing that some of the lines of the verses might annoy the emperor he twisted them. This news of cowardice reached Guru Hari Rai ji and he denounced and disinherited Ram Rai and even refused to see his face. Before his death Guru Hari Rai Ji appointed his youngest son Har Kishan ji at the age of five, the Eighth Guru of Sikhs. 

Meanwhile after the death of Guru Hargobind ji, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji moved to Bakala to live in silence and solitude for practicing meditation. The life of solitude ended after almost 20 years because of the untimely death of eighth guru, Guru Har Kishan ji at the age of eight years who is believed to have contracted small pox while serving his ill followers. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji travelled extensively after he was appointed as the Ninth Guru and travelled as far as Assam, Patna, Dhaka (currently in Bangladesh), Orissa, Chittagong, Agartala etc preaching the philosophy of Sikhism and establishing sangats. 

Aurangzeb was at the throne of Mughal Sultanate when Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was spreading the lessons and philosophy of Guru Nanak Dev ji. Dr Trilochan Singh in his book “Guru Tegh Bahadur: Prophet and Martyr” has perfectly describe the reign  of terror in Aurangzeb’s rule, “The persecution of the Hindus was the most momentous feature of Aurangzeb’s reign.  Although Aurangzeb had a lot of Hindu blood in him, he hated the Hindu everywhere except in the army, where the might of the Rajput warriors was indispensable, and in the harem where the beauty and loyalty of the Hindu princess enchanted even his puritan and ascetic mind to the point of romantic madness. His principal queen, Nawab Bai, the mother of his successor, Bahadur Shah, was a Hindu princess of Kashmir.” 

Aurangzeb ordered that Brahmins of Kurukshetra, Haridwar, Kashmir and Benares to be converted immediately so that morale of the rest of the Hindu society can be broken and they will soon follow the suit.  Aurangzeb firmly believed that if Brahmins were eliminated, the institutions of teaching and learning will disappear and finally Hinduism will collapse. The terror of Aurangzeb rule frightened the Hindu society to its core. A delegation of 500 Brahmins from the major study centres decided to meet Guru Tegh Bahadur ji and asked the Kashmiri scholar, Kripa Ram  to lead them. Kripa Ram ji told Guru Tegh Bahadur ji about the harrowing tales of suffering and torture that Hindu’s had to undergo for not accepting Islam. Moved by their pain and agony the ninth guru said “Now that you have come all the way for help and protection, you will certainly get it.” Nine year old Guru Gobind Singh ji was listening all the trauma and pain of the Hindus and asked Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji who will help the Hindus in the time of crisis to which Guru Tegh Bahadur ji said that someone has to make a supreme sacrifice.  Nine year old Guru Gobind ji replied “Father, who is greater than thee in these gloomy times, who can be equal to this great and stupendous task? Who else but my beloved Father can face the Emperor and try to show him the right path to peace, unity and harmony? Who else besides thee, O Gurudeva, can sacrifice his life, if such a crisis arises?”.

Hearing Gobind ji, there was a sense of satisfaction visible on the face of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji as if he knew the leadership of Sikh Panth will be in the strong hands. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji asked Kripa Ram to convey his message to Aurangzeb that if he is successful in converting Guru Tegh Bahadur ji then the whole Hindu Samaj will convert themselves to Islam. Aurangzeb was delighted to hear this as now the task is to convert just one man, either by persuasion or force, and his dream of converting Infidel India to a land of Allah, Dar-al-islam, was finally in his reach. 

Guru Tegh bahadur Ji was ready to leave for Delhi along with his disciples, Diwan Mati Das, Bhai Dayal Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Gurditta. As expected Aurangzeb failed to shake the faith of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and finally when no option seemed viable he ordered the execution of the Ninth Guru. He even tried the last attempt to execute all his disciples in his presence but all in vain. Bhai Dayal Das was thrown in hot boiling water, Bhai Sati Das was burned alive and Bhai Mati das was cut into pieces while Guru Tegh Bahadur ji was made to see these horrendous acts. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji’s faith was standing tall as the Himalaya and was deep as the Hind Mahasagar. He was beheaded on 24th November 1675 in Delhi and today Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Chandani Chowk stands tall in the remembrance of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji’s place of martyrdom. His head was taken by his disciples to Anandpur Sahib, Punjab and was cremated there. Here now stands the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Punjab telling the tales of valour and sacrifice of the Ninth Guru. Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi is the place where one of the disciples of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji burnt his house for cremating the body of the ninth guru in clear defiant of Aurangzeb’s order. 

The sacrifice of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji for the protection of Hindu Dharma is unparallel in history. The Sisganj and Rakabganj Gurudwara in Delhi are the epitome of unshaken faith and valour. Every Hindu should visit these gurudwara’s to mark their respect to Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, whose selfless act of sacrifice made Hindu Dharma resist the onslaught of Aurangzeb. 

“Give up your head, but forsake not those whom you have undertaken to protect. Sacrifice your life, but relinquish not your faith."- Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji

The writer is Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

Dr Gaurav Tyagi

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