GURU TEGH BAHADUR - THE NINTH NANAK
(1621 - 1675)
SURINDER SINGH KOHLI
As recorded in the Var of Satta and Balwand and in the rust Var of Bhai Gurdas, the spirit of Guru Nanak Dev worked through all the succeeding Gurus. Whatever they did or said, bears the stamp of the founder Guru. There had been no deviation from the path set forth by Guru Nanak. Guru Gobind Singh has also emphasized the identity of all the Sikh Gurus. According to him, “the people on the whole considered them as separate ones, but there were a few, who recognised them as one and the same.” Some of the events in the life of Guru Tegh Bahadur have been erroneously described in such a way that the ninth Guru’s work does not seem to be in consonance with the spirit of the first Guru. While Guru Nanak Dev wanted his devotees to be active in the service of the world. Guru Tegh Bahadur is said to be a pessimist and inclined towards the enunciation of world. Whereas Guru Nanak Dev and his early successors made the free kitchen (langer) as the special feature in the House of Nanak, Guru Tegh Bahadur is said to have resorted to forcible exactions. Such like misrepresentations occur only when we have not closely studied the compositions of the Guru.
Short Sketch of the Life of Guru Tegh Bahadur:
Tegh Bahadur was the youngest son of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. He was born on pril 1, 1621 at Guru ka Mahal, Amritsar. The warrior father, who wielded two swords of miri and piri as emblem of temporal and spiritual authority, respectively, had before his birth constructed a fort named Lohgarh (the fort of steel). The Tegh (sword) was very high in his mind, therefore he named the newly-born as Tegh Bahadur. Bhai Gurdas described the sixth Guru as the ‘’warrior Guru and conqueror of the armies.” Just before the birth of Tegh Bahadur, the Guru had issued a general proclamation for his disciples tliat he would be highly pleased to receive the arms arid necessary military equipment from them. This was a turning point in the history of the Sikhs.
Tegh Bahadur was married with Gujri Bai, the daughter of Sri Lal Chand, at Kartarpur, where her father had shifted from Amritsar.
The first battle between the armed Sikhs of Guru Hargobind and the Mughal forces was fought at Amritsar in 1628, when Tegh Bahadur was only seven. Another battle was fought at Gobindpur (near Hargobindpur). The third battle was fought at Mehraj in 1631, when Tegh Bahadur was only ten. He had been listening to the stories of war, told in the gatherings of the Sikhs, held at frequent intervals and also enjoyed the recitation of the heroic poetry by the bards, in the court of his father. During this period, he received military training and was waiting for the time when he would be able to participate actively in the battles. The fourth battle of Guru Hargobind was fought with the Mughals in 1634 near Kartarpur, when Tegh Bahadur was nearly fourteen years old. It is recorded in Sikh chronicles that the young Tegh Bahadur participated in this battle and fought very bravely along with his eldest brother Baba Gurditta. He wielded the sword like a spirited warrior and fought valiantly. He proved worthy of his name.
After the battle of Kartarpur, the sixth Guru shifted to Kiratpur with his family and settled there till his expiry in 1644. During these ten years, Tegh Bahadur remained with his father at Kartarpur. His eldest brother Baba Gurditta passed away in 1638. The passing away of such a worthy son was a big loss for the Guru’s family. The next son Suraj Mal and his son Deep Chand were world-minded. The next two sons of the sixth Guru Atal Rai and Ani Rai had passed away at a very tender age. The only”person considered suitable at that time was Har Rai, the younger son of Baba Gurditta. Therefore, considering his earthly existence nearing an end Guru Hargobind bestowed the Guruship on him on March 9, 1644.
It is recorded in Sikh chronicles that Nanaki, the mother of Tegh Bahadur, approached her husband, the sixth Guru, after the bestowal of Guruship on Har Rai, and asked his blessings for the future of her son. The Guru, giving her a sword and some other articles, said, “Everything ripens at the proper moment. When the time of maturity comes, the proper material gathers together from all directions. Similarly, when the time of the manifestation of the divine greatness of your son comes, all the appropriate circumstances will concur. Your son will shine as a great saint and perceptor, therefore have patience. And when the time comes, all these articles be given to your son.” No son of the great warrior Guru, except Tegh Bahadur, was destined to pass on the steel-sword to another great warrior Guru.
When the sixth Guru passed away, his wife Nanaki left Kiratpur with her son, Tegh Bahadur, and daughter-in-law, Gujri, and settled at Bakala, the home-town of her parents. For the next twenty years till 1664, Tegh Bahadur lived there. Some say that he led a life of selfmortification and penance in those years. This is far from truth. Undoubtedly he was pursuing closely the discipline of the Nam enunciated by Guru Nanak Dev. His Name- intoxication can be described in the following words of Guru Nanak: “It is in his pleasure that they laugh or weep or keep silence. They do not care for anyone else except the True Lord” (Var Asa M.l. p. 4473). The Guru’s own verses confirm that, He says: “O mother, let some one give instruction to the erring mind. It does not remember the Lord for a moment, even after listening to the Vedasand Puranas about the discipline adopted by saints” (Gauri M.9. pp. 219-20). He says again: “The life is passing away, passing away uselessly. Listening to the Puranas day and night ignorant man you do not understand that death has arrived, where will You run away?” (Jai Jaivanti M.9.p.1353). Having been born in the family of Divine Masters and being a follower of Gllru Nanak Dev, we can think of Tegh Bahadur absorbed in deep meditation and also being engaged in some useful tasks. According to Guru Nanak, one must work for a living (Var Sarang M.l.p.1245). The exact nature of the worldly life of Tegh Bahadur at that time was “viche graha udas” like the lotus in water (Ramkali M.l. Siddh Goshta, p. 938). He also undertook journeys to several places far and near.
When the eighth Guru Har Krishan announced “Baba” of Bakala as his successor, Tegh Bahadur was the only Baba or the male grandparent living at that time at Bakala. Though this fact was known to some of the Sikhs, closest to the House of the Guru, yet most of the Sikhs could not grasp the real connotation of the announcement of the eighth Guru. They could be easily beguiled by the self-centred and power-hungry Sodhis. The confusion was deepened by the emergence of twenty-two Sodhi claimants for Guruship, the prominent among them being Dhirmal, the nephew of Tegh Bahadur and the elder son of Baba Gurditta. The riddle of Guruship was ultimately solved by Makhan Shah, a Lubana trader from Gujarat. His merchant-vessel had been saved in a sea-storm by the grace of the Guru, for which he came to present his offerings personally. He visited all the claimants, but none could satisfy him. Ultimately he came to the house of the nod-claimant, Tegh Bahadur, who reminded him of his distress during the seastorm. It is said that Makhan Shah, in his great enthusiasm, ran to the roof of the dwelling of the newly- discovered Guru and shouted at the top of his voice: “Guru Ladho re, Guru Ladho re” (The Guru has been found, the Guru has been found).
The discovery of the Guru, brought great hardships for him Dhirmal, even sent his men to kill the Guru. A shot was fired at the Guru, which wounded him. All his belongings were taken away by force. But the Sikhs under the leadership of Ma khan Shah caught hold of Dhir Mal and seized all his property including the original recension of the Adi Granth (Kartarpuri Bir). But the Guru, without any anger or rancour in his mind, restored to him everything. But still he faced the jealousies and bickerings from the opponents, throughout his life, even though he moved away to a new town, founded by him, calling it ‘the city of Bliss’ (Anandpur).
The Guru undertook his missionary tours in Punjab, after which he proceeded towards the East. In keeping with the tradition of the founder Guru, an extensive missionary journey was undertaken which lasted for about six years from 1665 to 1670. It may be emphasized here that the journey was performed on the same route, which was followed by Guru Nanak Dev in his first Udasi This was purposely done, because the torch of the spiritual message of the founder had to be kept lit up, for the new generations. Since the Sikh Sangats were spread over a large area, several memorials had been raised at various places by them, commemorating the visit of Guru Nanak. In Uttar Pradesh, Behar and Bengal, the Sikh Sangats had already been established. It is recorded that the Ninth Guru was given a befitting reception by Bulaki Das Masand, when he reached Dacca. He stayed there for several days. The memorial of Guru Nanak had been raised by Bhai Nathu in AD. 1643 who was close associate of Baba Almast.
During his missionary tour, the Guru passed through Pehowa Kurukshetra, Delhi, Mathura, Vrindaban, Etawah, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Allahabad (Prayag), Mirzapur, Benares, Sasaram, Budha- Gaya, Rajgriha and Patna. He left his family at Patna and proceeded further towards Dacca, passing through Monghyr, Bhagalpur, Sahibganj, Rajmahal, Malda and Gopalpur. At Dacca he received the news about the birth of his son Govind Rai. But he had already planned to go to Assam and was determined to revive all the old religious centers estab- lished by Guru Nanak Dev there. Raja Ram Singh, son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, who was appointed, by the Emperor Aurangzeb as the commander of the Assam expedition, met Guru Tegh Bahadur at Dacca .He also requested the Guru to accompany him to Assam, the country
of magic and witchcraft. Since the Guru had already made up his mind to go there, he accompanied the Raja. The assertion by some non-Sikh historians that the Guru was fighting for Ram Singh is baseless and a mere fiction. The letters of the Guru give us clue about his movements. In Assam, the Guru stayed at Guru Nanak’s shrine at Dhubri, while Raja Ram Singh camped at Rangmati about fifteen miles from Dhubri.
It is recorded in Purani Kamrupar Dharm Dhara written by Dr.Banikanta Kakati: “At the invitation of the king of Kamrup, the Guru arrived in the capital of the kingdom in the company of Raja Ram Singh. There, at the instance of the Guru, peace was made between Ram Singh and the king of Kamrup and as a mark of friendship they exchanged their turbans. The king then implored the Guru to leave behind some permanent sign of his august visit. The Guru shot an arrow at a banyan tree and the arrow pierced the tree. In the capital of Kamrup, Dhubri, Gurudev told Ram Singh’s officers that as the place was sanctified by the visit of Guru Nanak every soldier should bring five basket-fuls of earth and erect a memorial to perpetuate the visit of Guru Nanak. Soon the task was accomplished. Some of the Gurudev’s disciples stayed behind in Kamrup and their descendents are still in Dhubri and Chololo.”
In Kamakhya temple in Assam, which was earlier hallowed by the visit of Guru Nanak Dev, here is a pm tion ofthe historical record describing Guru Tegh Bahadur’s visit to the Ahom Kingdom. Dr. Trilochan Singh has translated some portion of this important document in his book, “Guru Tegh Bahadur: Prophet and Martyr. “ At page 250 it is recorded, : “Inscrutable are the ways of the merciful Guru; it is impossible to describe his wonderful life-story. He is a god in human flesh, and yet he has not the slightest attachment. With a calm courage and sun-like splendour, his heart ever rests in Shunya, the silence of self- realisation. On seeing him, the strength of his enemy and opponents failed. Pure like the holy Ganges, he lives in the joy of divine contemplation. From outside he appears to be a king indulging in all the luxury and joy of princely life. At heart he is detached, exalted in spirit, firm in his concentration of mind like the Yogis. He performs all the worldly duties like a worldly man. Within his heart his mind remains poised on thoughts of God. The seekers of Truth, who were eager to meet the Prophet of Light, now had their desires fulfilled. He travelled into the most difficult regions, suffered the hardship of strenuous journey in far-flung regions of the East, just to meet the humble and patient seekers of Truth. Somehow or the other he reached these far flung regions, and fulfilled the Eternal promise of God, proclaiming that the Prophet
will knock at the door of every seeker of truth. Everywhere the devotees sing his praises. Whoever remembers the merciful Enlightener, Guru Tegh Bahadur, finds that he is there with him, ever present. The Sangats of the East were craving for a glimpse of the Guru. Now Guru Tegh Bahadur has crossed mountains, rivers and undergone great physical strain to reach his devotees of the East and bless them. In every region of the East, every home, every seeker of truth was devoutly making preparations at home, in the hope that the Guru would divine their secret wish to meet him, and come to them. Day and night people prayed in every region of the East that Guru Tegh Bahadur might come to their homes and bless them.”
While the Guru was propagating his doctrine of equality and brotherhood of man in Assam, the land of sorcery and superstition, Emperor Aurangzeb was doing his utmost to extirpate induism and Islamise the whole of India. The Sikh movement was also under the wrath of the Emperor. Guru Gobind Singh had been born at Patna, when the Guru was at Dacca on his ongoing journey. After hearing about the news of the royal designs of the suppression of the Sikh movement, he came back hastily and after meeting his family at Patna, he left for Punjab. The members of his family followed him. The Sikhs greeted their Guru in large numbers with their presents. The newswriters misconstrued the reception of the guru, and misrepresented to the Emperor about the growing influence of the Guru. The Muslim chroniclers have recorded the versions of the newswriters, without taking into consideration the love and adoration of the Sikhs for their Guru. The Sikh gatherings were considered as dangerous multitudes, and the presents of the Sikhs as forcible exactions. Mention may be made here of the important Muslim chronicles, the Patshah Buranjis of Assam and Siyar-ul- Mutakhirin in Persian of Ghulam Hussain Khan. The historical and religious information given by them is baseless. They are quite ignorant about the basic doctrines and beliefs of the Sikhs. Most of the Western writers have followed the line of the Muslim chronicles.
The Naqshbandi saints also played their part in poisoning the mind of the Emperor against the Guru and the Sikh Movement. Ahmad, a famous Sufi saint of the Nakshbandi order and a great opponent of Shia Muslims, who had remained imprisoned in Gwalior fort for three years, ultimately won Jahangir on his side and the Sunni code was adopted as the law of State and there after the Naqshbandi order continued to be an important factor in the courts of Mughal Emperors. Ahmad forbade the use of music, dancing while in a state of ecstasy, prostration before one’s pir, the worship of saints and shrines, or illuminatingtombs of saints’. After Jahangir, Shah Jahan was also a disciple of Ahmad. In his early youth Aurangzeb was also his devotee, but when he died in AD. 1625, Aurangzeb became a disciple of his son Muhammad Masum. The saint after initiating him into his order, predicted that he would succeed his father as Emperor of India. From that time, Aurangzeb was supported in his contest against his brothers for the throne by this saint, who wielded very great influence throughout the Empire. It was largely through the influence of this puritanical pir of his, Masum, that he reimposed the jiziya on his Hindu subjects and forbade the use of music. Even the practice of sama at the shrines of the Chishti was put a stop to. Hujjatu’llah, the second son of Masum, succeeded him. He also influenced Aurangzeb in his political career. It was at his instigation that ‘Aurangzeb led out his great expedition against the Shia Kingdom of south India’. Zubayr, the grandson of Hujjatu’llah succeeded him and it was during his time that Aurangzeb died.
On the orders of the Emperor, the Guru was arrested and not fulfilling the two conditions of ither accepting Islam or showing miracles, he was executed in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. These conditions have been mentioned in the Persian chronicles including Risala Dar Ahwali- Nanak Shah Darvesh (of Buddh Singh, 1784), Khalsa Nama (Bakht Mal), Tawarikh-i-Sikhan (Khushwaqt Rai, 1809), Umdat-ulTawarikhi- Sikhan (Sohan Lal, 1812), Zikr-i-Guruan wa Ibtida-i-Singhan (Ahroad Shah of Batala) Tarikh-i-Punjab (Ghulam Muhiyudadin alias Butey Shah), Ibrat Nama (Ali-ud-din, 1854), CharBagh- i-Punjab (Ganesh Das, after 1849) andSiyar-ul-Mutakhirin (Sayyid Ghulam Hussain). The Sufi saints of the Naqshbandi order as stated earlier, were responsible for the anti-Hindu and fanatical actions of Aurangzeb. They wanted to see the whole of India as a Sunni Islamic State. They could not tolerate existence of any religious leader, who could raise the voice regarding the protection of Hindu religion. Therefore they advised the emperor for the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur, in case he did not come into the fold of Islam.
The earliest evidence regarding the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur is from the pen of his illustrious son Guru Gobind Singh: When the Kashmiri Pundits had approached the Ninth Guru ji order to save their religion from extinction, the Guru suggested the sacrifise of a great leader, it was the tenth Master (though he was merely nine years of age, and had not as yet succeeded to the spiritual throne) who suggested that none could equal the greatness of his father. In the “Bachittar Natak”, it is clearly stated: “The Lord (Guru Tegh Bahadur) protected the sacred thread and the frontal mark of the Hindus, he performed a great event in the Iron age. He did this for the sake of saints, he laid down his head and did not utter a roan. He performed this great act for the sake of Dharma. He laid down his head and did not surrender on principles. The people of the LordGod considered the performance of miracles as foul acts. Breaking the potsherd on the head of the emperor of Delhi, he went to the abode of the Lord. None could excel this act of Tegh Bahadur. On his departure tlie world was aggrieved, the whole world moaned, but the heavens hailed his arrival”. The Tenth Guru states that the Ninth Guru made the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the principle of the freedom of religion and conscience.
It is a fact that Guru Nanak raised his voice against the Hindu formalism and symbolism. He did not appreciate the externalia (like the frontal mark and the sacred thread) of Hinduism, but still when the freedom of religion had been thwarted by a despot, Guru Nanak would have gone to its rescue. In 1675 it is his successor Guru Tegh Bahadurwho did, what none else could do. The Sikh Gurus had a high spiritual status but, unlike the Naqshbandi Sufi saints, they lived and acted only within the human limits in their eyes the performance of a miracle was a sinful act, because it was against the will of God. Under the influence of the Naqshbandi Sufi preceptors, Aurangzeb considered the performance of a miracle as a sign of saintliness. That is why he asked the Sikh Guru to perform a miracle and such a craving of the emperor was immediately rejected. In the words of Guru Gobind Singh : “The performance of a miracle was a bad act; the men of God felt ashamed of it.”
Guru Tegh Bahadur was the second martyred Guru, the first being Guru Arjan Dev. The martyrdom of Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Dyala preceded the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Masters, by their examples infused such a spirit amongst the disciples, that we find a, long line of martyrs in Sikhism. Guru Arjan Dev sat on a hot iron plate with showers of hot sand on his body. Bhai Mati Das was sawed alive and Bhai Dyala was boiled in a cauldron. Guru Tegh Bahadur braved the sword. As one gets through the history of martyrdom in Sikhism, one is amazed. There is no parallel else where. The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, however, has a peculiar significance. Whereas other martyrs laid down their lives for the religious freedom of their Dharma, the ninth Guru sacrificed his life for the religious freedom of another faith. He had a universal cause before him. He wants freedom of conscience, which was being curbed by an aggressive ruler. His martyrdom is a single glaring example of its own kind in the history of martyrdom.Sir Gokul Chand Narang has hailed the martyrdom in following words : “In his (Guru’s) death, however, he surpassed anything that he had done in life. He was known throughout upper India, was highly revered by Rajput princes, was actually worshipped by the peasantry of the Punjab and was generally looked upon as a champion of the Hindus.”
We have fifty-nine hymns (padas) composed in fifteen pages and fifty-six shlokas of the Guru in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which were included in the recension of Damdama by Guru Gobind Singh. The shlokas are couplets in Dohira and Soratha verse-forms, but the (hymns) have been composed in the style of the Padas of Sur Sagar.
A cursory reading of the hymns of Guru Teg Bahadur leads to the erroneous view that the Guru preaches renunciation as a pessimist, and considers all worldly activities as illusion and maya. But this is not so. Though the world for the Guru is temporary, a mirage, a bubble, a mountain of smoke or a wall of sand, and being engrossed in it for egoistic purpose is wrong, it is the same Guru who, in line with the doctrines of the Guru Granth Sahib, treads the path of martyrdom for a righteous cause. The specialty of the Guru’s hymns and couplets consists in its impact on the human mind in creating disinclination for worldly pleasures. They reveal in no uncertain words the sufferings of the world, its ephemeral character, the pitiable plight of the living beings, the power of death, the instabilty of the body. This suggests to the human mind and the seeker to remain detached and follow the path of Naam, godliness or virtue. The Guru has time and again advised the man of the world to refrain from sinful actions and go into the refuge of the Lord by following closely the discipline of the Guru or of Naam, (Tilang M. 9, p. 727). The Guru’s philosophy of life is “Fear not and frighten not” (Shalok M.9, p.1427). The Guru was totally against asceticism. He says, ‘’why should you go in search of Him in forest? The Omni-present Lord, who is always unaffected by maya, pervades in thee” (Dhanasari M.9,684). He says again: “Bring the devotion of the Lord in your heart, Nanak saith this un to you to remain associated with the world.” (Jaijaivanti M. 9, p.1352). According to the Guru, the spiritual life is to be led as a householder. There is no difference in concept of jivanmukta of Guru Teg Bahadur and that of the other Gurus. The concept of Jivanmukta of the Guru is as follows:
He who does not feel anguish in grief,
Who is free from pleasure, attachment and fear
and who considers gold as earth,
who is free from calumny and approbation, greed, attachment and ego,
Who is free from joy and sorrow, honour and dishonour,
Who has renounced all hopes and desires and expects nothing from the world,
Who is untouched by lust and anger, the Lord resides in his heart.
He on whom the Guru has showered his graces, he recognises this way,
Saith Nanak: He is united with the Lord just as water in water.
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