Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the Ninth Guru (Revealer of the Sikh faith) of the Sikhs was born on Baisakh vadi 5, 1678 Birkimi i.e. April 1, 1621 in Amritsar, Punjab. He was the youngest of the five sons of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, the Sixth Guru of the Sikhs and Bibi Nanaki. His childhood name was Tyag Mal, tyag means 'giving away' or parting with what one possesses. As a small child he gave away his clothes to a poor child in charity. On being asked by his mother as to why he had done so, he promptly answered that no one else would have given 'that boy' any clothes whereas you will immediately give me new clothes. From his early childhood, he was very humble, religious and detached from wordly possessions. During his childhood, Bhai Buddha Ji, a very revered Sikh of the time, taught him the manly arts of archery and horsemanship and Bhai Gurdas Ji, another renowned Sikh was in-charge of his religious instructions.
Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was a protector of the oppressed class. He fought against oppression and laid down his life to protect the right of the people to follow the religion of their own choice.
At the age of 13 he took part in the battle of Kartarpur in District Jallandhar of Punjab faught by his father Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib against one of his own former warriors who had deserted him and subsequently invaded him. In this battle (Guru) Tegh Bahadur Sahib evinced so much bravery and valour that his father, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib renamed him as Tegh Bahadur, tegh means sword and bahadur means brave. In his life to come he lived upto the 'meaning' implied in this name. At the age of 12 he was married to (Mata) Gujri Ji, daughter of Bhai Lal Chand Ji and Bibi Bishan Kaur Ji of Kartarpur in District Jallandhar of Punjab who had migrated from village Lakhnaur near Ambala in Haryana. After this, his father Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, along with the whole family went to Kiratpur Sahib, a small township in the foothill of Himalayas in District Ropar of Punjab, where they lived for nine years. After his father left for his heavenly abode in 1644 he left Kiratpur Sahib alongwith his mother Bibi Nanaki Ji and wife Mata Gujri Ji and shifted to Baba Bakala in District Amritsar of Punjab, the ancestral village of Bibi Nanaki Ji's father.
On March 30, 1664 before leaving for his heavenly abode, the Eighth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Har Krishan Sahib bestowed Guruship on him. Thus, on March 30, 1664 he assumed Guruship but was formally annointed Guru on August 11, 1664. After assuming this high seat of Guruship, he started preaching the message of the First Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji's that (i) God is one (ii) God is omnipresent and omnipotent (iii) God is the creator of the whole world and of all human beings (iv) all human beings are equal, thus persons of all religions and castes should be given equal respect (v) women should be given eqal status (vi) we should recite the name of God Almighty (vii) we should earn our livelihood honestly and share it with the needy persons. The spiritual pathway as revealed by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is a pathway of gradual growth and leads to union with God.
After assuming Guruship, as a first step, with a view to establish a place for the congregation of Sikhs he bought some land at a place 8 kms. north of Kiratpur Sahib, from Deep Chand the King of Kahlur. He bought three villages Makhopur, Mataur and Lodhipur from Deep Chand at a cost of Rs. 2200 and in June, 1665 established the town Chakk Nanaki which later came to be called Anandur Sahib (the City of Bliss). This town is now one of the five spiritual seats (Takhts) of the Sikhs and this is where in April 1699, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Sikh Guru created the Khalsa. After establishing this place of pilgrimage, to further strengthen the preaching activity, he left for an extensive tour of Banger area which now partly falls in Punjab and partly in Haryana. During this tour he visited more than 120 places in the Districts of Amritsar, Ropar, Patiala, Jallandhar, Nawan Shahar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Sangrur, Bathinda and Mansa in Punjab. In fond memory of his visits, historical Gurdwaras have been established at all of the places that he visited. After his he visited several places in the districts of Ambala, Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Mohindergarh, Narnaul, Rohtak, Yamuna Nagar and Jind in Haryana State. To commemorate his holy visits in Haryana more than 30 historical Gurdwaras have been established.
During his tour of Punjab and Haryana, in addition to conveying the message of Sikhism, he (i) got several wells dug in the areas which faced scarcity of water due to draught (ii) campaigned against drug addiction (iii) campaigned against growing of tobacco, and (iv) dispelled the miseries of sick and suffering population. Although, his tours were purely religious in nature but they created many doubts in the mind of Aurangzeb, the emperor on the Delhi throne. Several false complaints to this effect were received by Aurangzeb and he sent orders for his arrest. Aurangzeb who had acceded to the Delhi throne in July, 1658 after sending his father to prison and killing his brothers wanted to please Mughals by giving torture to non-Mughals. As part of his mission he wanted to arrest Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. But Raja Ram Singh, son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh intervened and convinced the ruler that Guru Sahib's activities were religious and social and not any threat to his empire. Thus, his arrest was averted.
After this, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib started on an extensive tour of the eastern part of India to further spread the message of Sikhism. During this tour, he visited Agra, Mathura, Etawah, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Mirzapur, Allahabad, Jaunpur, Nizamabad and Banaras in U.P.; Gaya, Sasaram, Bhagalpur, Patna Sahib, Lakshmipur (District Katihar) and Monghyr in Bihar; Sahibganj in Jharkhand; Calcutta in West Bengal, Dhubri in Assam and Dhaka, Pabna, Comilla, Sylhet and Chittagong (now in Bangla Desh)and Sondip Island.
By the time he returned to Punjab, Aurangzeb's pro-Islam policies and programmes were in full swing. Aurangzeb wanted to completely destroy the Hindu old civilization. Under his orders centuries old temples in Ayodhya, Banaras and Mathura in U.P. were demolished. A very renowned temple Vishwanath which had been built by Raja Nar Singh Dev at a cost of Rs. 33 lacs was destroyed. 'Mathura', the holy city of Hindus was renamed as 'Islamabad'. Ancient Hindu temples in Bihar and Orissa were also demolished. Ban was imposed on Hindu fairs and festivals. Aurangzeb had established a Jatha of Mullans consisting of horse riders who would go from place to place to destroy Hindu idols and temples. All Governors were directed not to give jobs to Hindus and whereever possible to dismiss them and replace them by Muslims. Employees in various sectors were issued orders to get converted to Islam upto a specific date or be prepared to lose their jobs. Aurangzeb had established a full fledged Department for this purpose and appointed a Director General as its in-charge. Under his policies and programmes thousands of Brahmins were imprisoned and put to torture to pressurize them to get converted to Islam. As per historical evidence, Aurangzeb would not eat any meal unless the janeu (sacred thread) taken away from the bodies of Brahmins weighing a quarter and a maund (one quintal) were presented to him. This means that thousands of Hindus were being converted to Islam.
It was part of this policy that Aurangzeb sent directions to Iftikhar Khan the Governor of Kashmir that all Hindus in Kashmir be converted to Islam. Within a few months more than half of the Brahmins adopted Islam. As a result of this, Kasmiri Brahmins became awe stricken. As reported by a Kashmiri historian in his book History of Kashmir when the cruelty became unbearable, some Pandits got together and went to Amar Nath for pilgrimage and praying. After that, under the leadership of Pandit Kirpa Ram, about 500 Brahmins decided to meet Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib for help. This desperate group met Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib at Anandpur Sahib on May 25, 1675 and requested for help. After listening to the woeful stories of Pandits Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib decided to sacrifice his life to dispel their tortures and save the Hindu Community from extinction. He resolved to lay down his life to uphold the people's right to practise the religion of their own choice. He told the Pandits to return to Kashmir and tell the Mughal Governor that if they convert their Guru i.e. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib to Islam they would all get converted to Islam. Getting furious over this development Aurangzeb ordered that Guru Sahib be arrested, put to torture and executed.
By that time, Guru Sahib himself had left Anandpur Sahib and was traveling towards Delhi via Agra. As per Aurangzeb's orders the soldiers arrested him at Sikandra, District Agra in U.P. At this place now stands Gurdwara Guru Ka Taal Sahib. At Sikandra he was put in an iron cage and then subjected to torture and then under a heavy escort brought to Delhi on November 4, 1675. At Delhi, he was bound in chains and as per Aurangzeb's orders was to be tortured until he accepted Islam. Thus he was subjected to severe torture. But he firmly refused to abandon his religion. When Mullans became sure that he could not be persuaded to abandon his religion, he was asked to perform some miracle, which he firmly refused. Finally, on November 11, 1675 he was brutally beheaded in Chandni Chowk, Delhi in public view. At this place now stands Gurdwara Sisganj Sahib.
At nightfall, a devout Sikh Lakkhi Shah Lubana Ji helped by three of his sons Nagahia, Hema and Harhi, not caring for the Mughal reprisal placed the headless trunk in a cart and took it to his home in Raisina village. To avoid direct confrontation with the Mughals, instead of an open cremation, he set fire to his whole house and thus cremated the sacred headless body of the martyred Guru Sahib. At this spot now stands Gurdwara Rikabganj Sahib.
Bhai Jaita Ji, another devout Sikh alongwith Bhai Uda Ji and Bhai Nanu Ji secretly carried the severed sacred head in a basket to Kiratpur Sahib. On the way they stopped to take rest at Taraori, District Karnal in Haryana; two places in Ambala, Haryana and village Nabha which now falls in district SAS Nagar, Punjab. In village Nabha now stands Gurdwara Sis Asthan Patshahi Naumi ate Dasmi. After Nabha, Bhai Jaita Ji and his campanions reached Kiratpur Sahib in District Ropar of Punjab. At the spot where the sacred head of the martyred Guru was handed over to his son (Sri Guru) Gobind Singh Ji, now stands Gurdwara Bibangarh Sahib. From here the sacred head was taken in a decorated palanquin by (Sri Guru) Gobind Singh Ji, who became the Tenth Guru, to Anandpur Sahib and cremated there on November 16, 1675. In fond memory of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Gurdwara Sisganj Sahib has been established at this place.
This year Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib's martyrdom day is being observed today i.e. on December 4, 2016. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims visited Gurdwara Sisganj Sahib, Chandni Chowk, Delhi as well as all the other Gurdwaras all over the world to pay their obeisance.
Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was a protector of the oppressed class. He fought against oppression and laid down his life to protect the right of the people to follow the religion of their own choice. His bani consists of 59 sabdas and 57slokas. These sabdas and slokas essentialize the same spiritual experience and insights as does the bani of his predecessor Gurus.
* Retd. Professor of Education, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India.