Episodes From lives of the Gurus
Stories of the Ninth Mahal (III) Episode No. 11
Guru Contemplates Future Plans
Though Guru Tegh Bahadur accepted the throne of guruship, at heart he remained unattached. He was pleased by nothing but the love of God. No material objects of the world gave him any pleasure. His heart was above attachment. Occasionally, he would remark to some confidant, "The burden is heavy, not easy to carry." One day, he secretly went to the nearby wilderness during night time, unknown to his family or the sangat.
There he saw a heap of sugarcane strippings. He covered himself with the strippings and went into meditation for five days and five nights. On the sixth day, bullocks feeding on the strippings got startled to see a part of the Guru's body. Thereupon, the Jat Sikhs came running to see what was inside. On search of the heap they discovered the Guru inside.
The Sikhs bowed their heads before him. They informed Mata ji that the Guru had been found. Earlier the Sikhs had been looking for the Guru on horses everywhere in the country and beyond, without finding a trace of him, and they had been wailing. The news made the sangat and Mata ji very happy. Mata ji brought a palanquin for the Guru. The entire Sikh sangat and other people collected near the heap. Grief gave place to happiness at the sight of the Guru. People were congratulating Mata ji and the Guru was brought home in the palanquin. Music bands played for several days and a huge feast was arranged in which the Sikh sangat and Brahmins ate to their hearts' content. Then Mata ji asked the Guru in seclusion, why he had inflicted hardship on his body through such austerities. "It is good luck that your life has been spared. God has saved you. There have been Gurus in our family before you also. They never resorted to such practices.
“Why do you do this?” “The burden is heavy, not easy to carry,” replied the Guru. (11)
Stories Of The Ninth Mahal (IV) Episode No. 12
Once, on pretext of hunting, Guru Baba left Anandpur and reached as far as Agra, very far in the country and beyond. There were three other Sikhs with him, all four were riding horses. On reaching Agra they camped in a garden, where a Hindu shepherd was tending his goats. Guru Baba called him and said, "Take my mohar (gold coin) and shawl to the sweets-seller, and against this buy two rupees worth of sweets and bring it in the shawl.
My Sikhs will look after your goats." Then the shepherd went to the sweets-seller with the mohar and the shawl and conveyed what the Guru had said. A state employee of the area lived in his neighbourhood. The Judicial Inspector Naurang Shah Badshah happened to be camping there. The sweets-seller suspected that this man might be a thief, because the mohar and shawl did not go with his status. He considered it prudent to inform the darogha to avoid any future trouble. So, the sweets-seller took the shepherd to the darogha for interrogation. The darogha asked, “What do you say?” The shepherd replied, “Four noble horsemen have arrived in the garden where I was tending my goats. They called me and asked me to take this mohar and shawl to buy sweets worth two ropees against the mohar, and bring it in the shawl. They have sent me here. They promised to look after my goats in my absence.” The darogha decided to report the horsemen to the Emperor. Every night he used to report whatever activities he saw during the day. He wanted to know who they were. So he instructed the shepherd to take the sweets from the shopkeeper and also to take his men with him. He also directed that the four horsemen should come and talk to him, so that he could find out who they were. Thus, the shepherd left with the sweets, the message and the darogha's men. The message was delivered to the Guru. On hearing it he got up to accompany the men. The Sikhs followed, duly armed, on horseback. They reported to the darogha. “Who are you?” asked the darogha. “I am Tegh Bahadur,” replied the Guru. The darogha immediately reported to the emperor,
"Your Majesty, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the pir of the Hindus, whom the Hindus call the True Emperor, is now in our hands. There are three other horsemen with him. They have all been detained at the shop. I solicit further instructions." The emperor was very happy to hear this, and immediately ordered their arrest. The darogha put all four in jail, putting chains round their necks and waists. Their feet and hands were also chained. Two of the Sikhs grumbled, complaining that the Guru had landed them in a difficult situation which would lead nowhere.
"Even now, anyone who wants to go, can be released," said the Guru.
"Kind Master, who will release us now? All our limbs are locked in chains. The Imperial squads are constantly watching us. How is release possible?" asked the Sikhs.
"You are released!" said the Guru. Instantly, their chains got unfastened, and the Sikhs could leave. Nobody was able to see them. Then the Guru looked towards the third Sikh and asked him to go also. But the Sikh had full faith in the Guru, and said, "O True King, my head has already been surrendered to you. It is for you to keep or kill me. I have no life beyond you." The Guru blessed him and permitted him to stay with him to sacrifice his head for the cause of the Guru. The Guru stayed in the prison along with the Sikh. The ministers expressed their happiness to the emperor over the fact that the pir of the Hindus, Guru Tegh Bahadur, had fallen into their hands, and said, "If you can make him accept our religion, then thousands of Hindus will automatically convert to Islam." "God has thrown him into my hands. If he still does not accept our religion, he faces torture. That will make him relent," said the emperor. Then the Turks started torturing the Guru's body with cruelty that is beyond description. It was only the Guru who could bear it. Anybody else in his place would have yielded to their demand in no time. On the second or third day, the emperor came to the Guru and offered governorship of any province of the Guru's choice, adding, "You will not have to furnish any accounts. The heavens will be yours. I, along with my sons, shall become your follower and shall establish kinship with you. But you must accept our religion."
"Stop this nonsense. You can do whatever you like. This will never happen. Who can undo what the Creator has ordained. Whatever has been ordained by Him, only that shall happen. Nothing else," replied the Guru. The Turks tried all kinds of tactics. But the Guru remained firm, like the Sumer Mountain braves the worst storms. At that time the Sikh prayed, "I cannot tolerate such unworthy behaviour towards you. Pray, permit me to destroy the Emperor along with his Empire."
"Where did you get these powers from?" asked the Guru.
"O True King, it is from your service that such powers have corne to me, I have not seen any other door," replied the Sikh.
"Listen, O Sikh, do you think that he who gave you these powers, has none of these himself?" asked the Guru.
"Your powers have no limit," replied the Sikh. Then the Guru told him not to speak. "The Lord has caused the events." At this the Sikh became quiet. Later, another Sikh wrote a prayer addressed to the Tenth Lord, on behalf of the Ninth Mahal. The following doha formed part of the prayer:
'All strength is gone; thrown in bonds is this frame;
No effort avails.
Prayeth Nanak: Lord, you are my sole support.
Succour me as you did the (mythological) elephant.'
The reply of the Tenth Master was this couplet:
'Lo, strength has arrived;
The bonds are snapped asunder.
Every thing is within your control,
The strength is there,
Saith Nanak, you alone are my helper.'
Then the Guru caused this to happen. The Guru ordered one of the Sikhs with him in prison, "In the ambrosial hours of the morning, when I finish recitation of the Japu ji, and bow my head in obeisance, you shall sever my head from my body." "O True King, if you get this done through me, what will be my fate?" asked the Sikh. "You will be with me, wherever I am," replied the Guru. At this the Sikh bowed in obeisance. In the morning the Guru had his bath and completed recitation of the Japu ji, offered the Ardas, and bowed his head before the Lord. The Sikh was asked to carry out his assignment. At this the Sikh severed the Guru's head from the body.
As this news reached the Emperor, the Sikh was also executed, and strict watch ordered, so that the Guru's body could not be taken away. The Tenth Master was at Anandpur then. He ordered the Ranghreta Sikhs to bring the Guru's body to Anandpur, and gave his blessings to them. The Ranghreta Sikhs bowed in obeisance. They loaded a bullock cart with hay, stole the body during the night, and presented it to the Guru at Anandpur. The Guru blessed them, honouring the Ranghretas as "Sons of the Guru." The body reached Anandpur and the head fell into the hands of the Delhi Sikhs. The body was cremated at Anandpur, and the head at Delhi. At both places sandal wood was used at the pyre. Flowers and petals were heaped on the Guru's biban. The whole atmosphere was filled with fragrance of incense, and sweetness of scents and perfumes. Saffron was sprinkled. Conch shells were blown, and celestial music sounded all round. There was a prolonged shout of victory. Angels from heaven came to witness the scenes of shouts of victory. The sidhas, the saints, all came to shower flowers on the Guru's biban, happy to hear the praise of the Guru.(12)
Episodes No 11
This story also seems to have been included to emphasise the reluctance of the Guru to assume leadership, and his lack of enthusiasm for the privileges and the prestige that go with Guruship. It appears, howver, that this emphasis has been a little overdone. Hiding in a heap of cane trash for five days does not fit into the historically known chapracter of the Guru. For, the Guru was never a recluse, as perhaps Sewa Das would have the readers believe. The Guru had earned the title of ‘Tegh Bahadur’ from his great father, Guru Har Gobind, for his heroic performance as a swordsman in the battle of Kartarpur. He had also founded a city and named it Anandpur (the city of Bliss). He had undertaken countrywide tours on temporal as well spiritual missions. He had challenged the empire of the day, and had ultimately embraced martyrdom. So, the account given by Sewa Das in this episode has to be viewed in the light of these observations. Also, the Guru’s bani which preaches “Frighten Not; Fear not; (Bhai kahu ko det nahin, nahi bhai manat aan), contradicts the image that appears to emerge from the author’s account.
Note: Episodes No 12
Sewa Das has given an account of the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, which it is difficult to reconcile with realities of history. It is well-known that Aurangzeb was following a policy of forced conversions to Islam throughout the country. In some areas like Kashmir, the policy was being followed more enthusiastically. Faced with this threat, a delegation of Kashmiri Pundits approached Guru Tegh Bahadur at Anandpur Sahib for help. The Guru who was at the time, the most towering spiritual leader of the non-Muslim community espoused their cause, and challenged the Empire. As expected, this led to the chain of events - the Guru’s arrest, imprisonment, torture to force conversion and eventual martyrdom - all under orders of the Emperor. Sewa Das had infinite faith in the Guru and believed that he was all-knowning and all-powerful. His firm conviction was that nobody could arrest him against his will, keep him in chains or excute him. He himself was the Master of events, and wrote destiny of people. So he gives the version in which the Guru himself causes his arrest and later himself instructs the accompanying Sikh to cut his head from his body. He does not consider it necessary to answer questions like ‘who provided the Sikh with the sword for the purpose’, because the Guru is all-powerful.
One thing, which is clear from the account, is that Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed his life for freedom of faith, not only of his own followers, but also that of others, which which he himself did not believe. We must note that Sewa Das writes:
“The ministers expressed their happiness to the Emperor over the fact that the pir of the Hindus, Guru Tegh Bahadur, had fallen into their hands, and said, ‘If you can make him accept our religion, then thousands of Hindus will automatically convert to Islam.’ ‘God has thrown him into my hands. If he still does not accept our religion, he faces torture.’ That will make him relent, ‘said the Emperor.”
But the Guru did not relent, although they inflicted extreme tortures on him. He had an option. he embraced martyrdom, and showed the way to the demoralised non-Muslim subjects, to stand up for their faith.
There are a couple of minor factual errors which need to be pointed out:
a) It is historically wrong that the Guru commissioned the Ranghretas to bring the body of the Guru from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib.
b) It is wrong that the body was cremated at Anandpur Sahib and the head at Delhi. The vice-versa is true, and also stands to reason. This could be a copyist’s eror. However, it says much for the authenticity of the manuscript that even an obvious error was left as such, one it had somehow sneaked in.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All