New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver a speech from the Red Fort on Thursday to commemorate the 401st birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru who stood up to the Mughals’ forceful conversions. The BJP has been attempting to reach out to the Sikh community since deciding to run alone in the Punjab Assembly elections after the old partnership with the Shiromani Akali Dal fell up over the three agricultural laws. Last November, the Prime Minister selected Guru Nanak Jayanti to announce the abolition of the legislation.
Tegh Bahadur was born on April 21, 1621, in Amritsar, to Mata Nanki and Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh guru, who organised an army against the Mughals and popularised the notion of warrior saints.
Tegh Bahadur’s austere character earned him the nickname Tyag Mal as a child. He spent his early life in Amritsar, where he was taught Gurmukhi, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Indian religious philosophy by Bhai Gurdas, and swordsmanship, archery, and horseback riding by Baba Budha.
He distinguished himself in a battle against a Mughal commander when he was just 13 years old. Tegh Bahadur was his name because of his courage and swordsmanship in combat.
In 1632, he married Mata Gujri in Kartarpur and then moved to Bakala, near Amritsar.
The eighth Guru of the Sikhs
Guruship became hereditary with Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru. In 1644, when Tegh Bahadur’s elder brother Gurditta died young, his 14-year-old son, Guru Har Rai, took over as guru. He held the position until 1661, when he died at the age of 31.
Guru Har Rai was replaced by his five-year-old son Guru Har Krishan, who died before reaching the age of eight in Delhi in 1664. When asked who would succeed him, it is believed that he chose his great uncle’s name, “Baba Bakala.”
In his Bakala home, Guru Tegh Bahadur had erected a ‘bhora’ (basement) where he spent much of his time in meditation. Bhoras were considered suitable for meditation in ancient Indian culture because they were soundproof and maintained a uniform temperature. However, because Guru Har Krishan did not specifically identify Guru Tegh Bahadur, a slew of claims arose.
Dr. Hardev Singh of Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University, Fatehgarh Sahib, said that legend has it that Makhan Shah, a wealthy trader whose ship was trapped in a storm at sea, begged that if it was saved, he would present the ruling guru 500 gold mohurs (coins).
However, when he arrived in Delhi, he discovered that Har Krishan had died and that a queue of claimants had formed at Bakala. He allegedly concluded that whomever was the genuine guru would want the exact amount he had pledged in his prayers.
When he heard about Tegh Bahadur meditating in the ‘bhora,’ he had exhausted all of his choices. Tegh Bahadur looked Makhan Shah in the eyes and reminded him he had promised 500 coins. He added, “It’s not wise to test your guru.”
“Guru ladho re (I have discovered the guru),” an excited Makhan Shah is believed to have screamed from the rooftop.
Following that Tegh Bahadur moved to Kiratpur Sahib. On the request of Raja Bhim Chand of Kahlur, who was a devotee, he bought property in Makhowal hamlet and named it Chak Nanki (now Anandpur Sahib) after his mother in 1665.
During the Guru’s reign
Aurangzeb was the ruling Mughal emperor at the time. It was a hectic time, according to Dr. Hardev Singh. “There were conversions, either through a government order or through coercion. When people were charged with some crime or misdemeanour, they would be pardoned if they converted.”
Guru Tegh Bahadur who started travelling extensively through Malwa and Majha, first came into conflict with the authorities when he started questioning the tradition of worshipping at the graves of pirs and faqirs. He preached against this practice, and urged his followers to be ‘nirbhau’ (fearless) and ‘nirvair’ (without envy).
His sermons, delivered in a mix of Sadukhri and Braj languages, were widely understood from Sindh to Bengal. The metaphors he used resonated with people across North India. Guru Tegh Bahadur often alluded to Panchali (Draupadi) and Ganika in his preachings and declared that Hindustan could regain its piety if it took refuge in one God, Dr Hardev said.
An encounter with the Mughals
As word of his message spread, a local chieftain in Dhamtan, near Jind in modern-day Haryana, apprehended him and sent him to Delhi on false allegations of collecting tribute from peasants. But Raja Ram Singh of Amer, whose family had been a long-time guru devotee, intervened and imprisoned the guru for two months until he could persuade Aurangzeb that the guru was a spiritual man with no political ambitions.
Raja Jai Singh of Amer had already provided land for a dharamshala, a place for gurus to stay when visiting Delhi. This is where the current Bangla Sahib gurdwara is located.
Travels outside of Punjab
Dr. Amarjit Singh, director of the Guru Granth Sahib Department at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, said the guru spent four years travelling up to Dhaka in Bangladesh and up to Puri in Odisha after establishing his headquarters at present-day Anandpur Sahib in 1665. He also paid visits to Mathura, Agra, Benares, Allahabad, and Patna, where he entrusted his wife and brother to local devotees. Guru Gobind Singh was born in the city of Patna in the year 1666.
Raja Ram Singh requested the guru’s assistance in brokering a ceasefire with the Ahom ruler while the guru was on his way back from Dhaka. This peace agreement is commemorated at Gurdwara Dhubri Sahib on the banks of the Brahmaputra.
According to historians, the guru returned to Punjab after learning of the Mughals’ mounting crimes.
The martyrdom of the guru
Kirpa Ram, a Kashmiri Brahmin, approached the guru at Anandpur Sahib, seeking his protection with a party from the Valley. Local chieftains had warned Das to convert or risk retaliation, Das told Guru Tegh Bahadur. Das and his crew were assured of the guru’s security, and the guru instructed them to inform the Mughals that they should first attempt to convert the guru.
This was seen by Aurangzeb as an open threat to his power. According to Sri Gur Bilas Patshahi Dasmi, a 1797 biography of Guru Gobind Singh penned by Kavi Sukha Singh, the guru travelled to Delhi to confess his identity and was captured by the Mughals.
Sardar Kapur Singh, a historian, said in a paper titled ‘Who Killed Guru Tegh Bahadur?’ that Aurangzeb ordered the guru’s public death on November 11, 1675 after he refused to join Islam.
He and his three comrades, Bhai Mati Das, who was ripped apart, Bhai Sati Das, who was burned to death, and Bhai Dyala ji, who was thrown in boiling water, were tortured to death and decapitated in Chandni Chowk. They were urged to alter their views to the very end, but they refused. Gurdwara Sis Ganj was established on the spot where they were killed in 1784.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru who formed the Khalsa, wrote in Vichitra Natak about his father: ‘’Dharam het saka jin kiya, sees diya par sir nahin diya (He sacrificed his life for dharma, he gave up his head but not his honour).”