Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The story of the ninth Guru of Sikhism is very similar to that of all Gurus but like always there is something definite that distinguishes Him from The Others.
Imagine an individual having two names, each name so different from the other, that it makes one wonder, if we are referring to the same individual in the first place. Thus, the ninth Guru was called by many as Guru Tyag Mal, which means, the One who is filled with the fervour of sacrifice and renunciation and the other name He was and is known is Guru Tegh Bahadur; a name given to Him when He was just fourteen years of age, after He had proved His prowess of yielding the sword and shown His bravery on the battlefield and remember He was barely fourteen years of age.
So here is a young lad, who fights a battle, and who is so powerful and capable in the art of warfare, virtually like a gladiator, that He is named after His valour but here is the same One, who decades later would allow Aurangzeb’s men to behead Him, as He had decided to do away with violence, as One cannot fight the war to win hearts with a sword.
The irony of it all is that the reason for His execution was not only because the ninth Guru fought for the rights and honour of Sikhs and Sikhism but because He also fought for the right and honour of all Hindus, not because He believed in the philosophy of Hinduism or rejected the ideology of Islam, but simply because He believed that each and every human being had the right to follow His or Her own faith and worship His or Her own God, Goddess and Master and if there was somebody, some army, some King, who thought otherwise, and who wanted to convert members of one religion to His religion relying on the persuasive skills of the sword and a large army, then the ninth Guru had no option but to stand between the army and a psychopathic king and do His bit to safeguard as many people as He possibly could.
So this is the story of a lad who was known for His prowess of the sword, who later was known for His ability at renunciation and then went into the chronicles of eternity for sacrificing His life to promote Oneness.
And yes, the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was also the father of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the One who then took the battle against the tyrants and formed an army of Khalsa Warriors.
He did not believe in miracles, though He performed many silently. According to Sikh Gurus, miracles were not needed, as the greatest miracle was to live life chanting the Name of God and Guru and give one’s best in life. Miracles were manipulation of energy and did not showcase God in all His glory. The true miracle was The Name as The Name took one away from maya and the web of karma into the arms of self-realisation and true liberation.
But when the need arose He did perform miracles to help those in need. Like for instance once, travelling to Mulowal, which is in Patiala, the simple people pleaded to Him to bring forth a source of water, as they had to undergo lot of hardship to acquire water to even quench their thirst. The Guru realising their plight approached the only well that contained water which was black in colour. Guru Tegh Bahadur looked into the well for a while. It was as though He spoke to the water.
Then He looked up and told the simple village folk that if they wanted water to drink and use for their daily life, all they had to do was pray to God. He asked them to repeat God’s Name and then He told them to draw the water out and when the villagers did so, the water was crystal clear and potable. Even today that well has fresh water which tastes sweet and this well is called The Guru’s Well.
Thus, He would perform miracles if and when the miracle was truly needed and would come to help those in real need. Otherwise He refused to perform miracles. It was this refusal which would eventually lead to His beheading.
He spent all His time travelling and spreading the name and Light of God. He sacrificed His family life, not seeing them for years at a stretch all to spread the glory of The Gurus and the importance and need of The Naam. Thus, after years of travel the Guru reached home to meet His son, for the first time, who was already four years old. He stayed with His family for a year and again travelled for two years and then came back to be with His family and disciples for the next few years. He personally taught His son the art of warfare but most importantly the heart of spirituality.
But things were not right in the country. Aurangzeb had gone nuts. He had imprisoned his father and killed his much loved brother. His own people, his own community and religious brethren looked at him with mistrust and disillusionment. To turn the tide in his favour he launched a violent campaign to convert as many Hindus into Islam.
It was a bloody time for Hindus.
Scores of Hindus were made to embrace Islam or be intimately introduced to the sharp edge of the sword. Or those who refused were taxed indiscriminately and their land and jobs taken away from them. And then came the final plan; to convert Kashmiri Pandits, who were considered to be the most pious and most spiritual clan of Hindus. If they were converted, the backbone of Hinduism would be broken.
In a vision, a number of Kashmiri Pandits, saw Guru Tegh Bahadur and they came to the conclusion that if anybody could stand between the dementia and paranoia of Aurangzeb and the safety of Hindus, it was the ninth Guru of Sikhs.
So they approached Guru Tegh Bahadur. The meeting went on for long. After a while, the Guru’s young son walked into the meeting and saw the solemn faces of not only all the learned scholars but also His Father. He had never seen His Father so sombre.
The group of Kashmiri Pandits was led by Pandit Kirpa Ram Datt who later on would become the Sanskrit teacher of the tenth Guru and also would die fighting the noble fight, as a Khalsa warrior.
Guru Gobind Singh, then just barely nine or ten years old (some scholars say He was fourteen years old) asked His Father what troubled Him.
His Father told the future tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, that the situation for the Hindus had reached such a point, that “only if a very noble and pious man lays down his head for the sake of the poor Brahmins, there is no hope for Hindus and no hope to escape from the tyranny unleashed by Aurangzeb.” The young to be Guru looked at His Father and said, “My Guru and Father, there can be no such noble and pious man but You Yourself.” Guru Tegh Bahadur was waiting for this answer. He was waiting for destiny to unfold and awaiting for this platform for His son to come of age. The Guru embraced His son and with tears streaming down His face He whispered that He said nothing as He was worried for Gobind’s future and the young tenth Guru held His father close to Him and whispered, “You have always taught one and all to leave all to God and Guru. Now is the time to leave your son to God and Guru. You go and show the tyrants what Guru Tegh Bahadur is truly made off. Show them what Sikhs are made off.”
So the plan was put into motion. The Brahmin delegation went and met Aurangzeb. They told the chap that all the learned Brahmins would embrace Islam if Aurangzeb would convince the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur to embrace Islam.
Aurangzeb nearly passed out with joy. His work had gotten truly simple. How difficult would it be to convince or force one Man to do as told? If that took place, he would be back into favour amongst his own community. It is to be understood that most Muslims were not in favour of Aurangzeb and the barbaric manner in which conversion was taking place. The common Muslim folk were aghast as they had lived with their Hindu brethren for decades if not centuries in peace, sharing their joys and sorrows as one big family. The Sufis were completely against the shedding of innocent blood in the name of Islam, as Islam did not advocate or favour the spilling of innocent blood that too in the name of Almighty Allah.
Thus for Aurangzeb, if he could without much bloodshed convert Brahmins into Muslims, it would bode well for him and also make him be looked up to, in his own community and religion.
Before leaving, Guru Tegh Bahadur appointed His Son, Guru Gobind Singh as the tenth Guru. This itself was enough indication to one and all that Guru Tegh Bahadur was clear, He would not come back alive in the body back to His family and His disciples.
The Sikhs wanted to ride with their Guru and if you have a battalion of Sikh warriors riding with you, it would take a very foolhardy and masochistic enemy to attack you. But the Guru declined. This was not war to be fought with the sword. This was a war to be fought with sacrifice.
The Guru took with Him three of His most dearest disciples. Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das (who were brothers) and Bhai Dyala. It was clear to one and all that none of them would return alive and atrocities awaited them but they loved their Guru so much, that for them it was better to die painfully than to live without their Guru, as then each moment would be worse than death itself.
Soon after they left Anandpur Sahib, the Guru with His three dear disciples were captured and taken to Delhi in chains.
Aurangzeb asked of the Guru as to why would a Sikh want to put Himself in such a situation for people who belonged to another religion? In fact Islam and Sikhism both did not approve of worshipping idols and rituals? And the Guru replied, “That it is true I do not advocate the worship of idols and that in this sense Islam and Sikhism have much in common, but one thing neither my Sikhs or I can ever condone and that is the forceful conversion of anybody to another religion. All religions are One. They come forth from that One Creator. This is not about Hinduism, this is about the principle of standing for those being violated and being murdered and forcibly converted in the name of God. No God preaches this and neither does Islam. I will fight for the right of every individual and in this case, every Hindu to live with dignity and follow their faith with freedom and dignity and according to what they deem spiritual and religious.”
When asked as to why He was called the Sachha Padsha (the True King) and if He was a True King, He should perform a miracle to prove his Royalty and the Guru replied, “A true King is One who spreads the word of the Lord and wins the love and affection and respect of His people through the word of God. Rulers will come and go but the Word of God will remain always. This seat of Royalty has been occupied for over two hundred years by my Gurus before Me. There is only one religion and that is the religion of God. Whoever belongs to the religion of God, owns Me and I own him, as we belong to God. I will never force anybody to follow my faith and there is nobody in this world or the next who can force me to convert or change my faith. Where miracles are concerned, I will never perform a miracle to save My life. That is not the way things work. Men of God submit to the Will of God and not to the will of any man. You do what you have to. I and my dear ones will do what we must do.”
Aurangzeb made it clear that torture and death awaited the Guru and His three disciples.
The atrocities began. Torture and depravation of food and water. Neither the Guru or His three friends and disciples budged. Then in front of His eyes, one by one, His disciples were brutally murdered.
Bhai Mati Das would love to serve His Guru. He would bring the Guru water to drink and also cleanse the Guru’s feet and drink the water as Holy Water. He was made to face the Guru and His body sawed into half. Split from head downwards. Bhai Mati Das calmly looked at Guru Tegh Bahadur and only love poured through. His desire once expressed was that His very blood clean His Guru’s feet and this is what happened. Looking at His Guru, His body was sawed and the blood spurted and bathed the Guru. The Guru eventually shut His eyes and when He opened them, all around were aware that Bhai Mati Das had merged with His Guru.
His brother Bhai Sati Das was wrapped in cotton wool and set on fire. Not one word came forth from Bhai Sati Das. He only looked at His Guru while the fire burnt Him to death. Bhai Dyala was burnt alive in boiling oil or some say boiling water but He said not a word. He smiled at His Guru who was forced to witness the murders of His loved Ones.
Aurangzeb once again asked Guru Tegh Bahadur to convert to Islam or perform a miracle and the Guru said, “The only true miracle is to leave all in the Hands of God and Guru.”
Morning of November eleventh, sixteen hundred and seventy five, Guru Tegh Bahadur was brought in front of a huge crowd of believers as well as Muslims who were aghast at the inhuman manner in which the Guru’s disciples were murdered. They still hoped that the Guru would not be touched. But the execution was ordered. The Guru requested the executioner to bring down the axe when His head bowed down, which meant He had recited His prayers. The executioner nodded. His eyes seeking pardon of The Guru. The Guru prayed the Japji Sahib and the Sukhmani Path and then bowed His Head and then the axe fell to behead the ninth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur.
Some say the head flew into the hands of Bhai Jaita who somehow managed to escape with it while some say the Guru’s head and body were hung at the gate of the city or town and in the darkness of the night Bhai Jaita and Bhai Lakhi Shah carried the Head and Body of the Guru respectively while a number of researchers say that nobody had the courage to pick up either the head or the body of the Guru and then nature intervened.
A storm came forth and in the cover of the storm, Bhai Jaita picked up the Guru’s Head and began the journey for the Guru’s Home. The Guru’s body was carried forth by Bhai Lakhi Shah.
Aware that soldiers would be hunting for the Guru’s Body to make a public spectacle and disrespect It and as they would be searching for a body being cremated, Bhai Lakhi put the Guru’s body in his house and set his house on fire early in the morning next day. Then he collected The Holy Ashes and some say The Holy Ashes were sprinkled in the Holy River Yamuna while some say handed over to Guru Gobind Singh. While the head of the Guru was with all humility and respect carried to and handed over to Guru Gobind Singh and on November sixteenth, five days after the execution of the Guru, the Guru’s Head was put on a pyre of sandal wood and cremated by His son Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru Tegh Bahadur sacrificed His life not for His people or His religion but for the respect and love He had for all religions and mainly for the love and respect He had for The Oneness Family. Many have come and gone and many will come and go who will sacrifice themselves for their cause.But Guru Tegh Bahadur taught one and all that the life and dignity of every individual is a cause worth giving one’s life, as that life which considers all to come forth from The Creator, there is only one cause and that is to live and die for the respect and faith of all as eventually each one comes forth from The Oneness Family.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha