They were a Muslim dynasty in India whose founder Babur or Babar(1483-1531) was a descendant of Genghiz Khan (1162-1227) and Tamerlane(1336-1405). Genghiz Khan was a Mongol ruler,non-Muslim, who founded an empire that at its height ruled 20% of the world and Tamerlane was his Muslim descendant,a true psychopath who killed some 17 million people,Muslim and non-Muslim.
The greatest of the Mughal rulers was Akbar (“Great” in Arabic”)(1542-1605) who had many faults in spite of his achievements.Eventually he became an apostate of Islam,founding his own religion, which died with him.The last strong ruler of the Mughals was Aurangzeb(1618-1707) who was a religious fanatic,persecuting Hindus, and who destroyed the Mughal Empire in India.
Who are the Sikhs?
They are a people who follow a religion invented by a man called Nanak(1469-1539) who combined Hinduism and Islam.The word sikh in Sanskrit means “learner,disciple”.Their holy book is called Guru Granth Sahib.
The 9th Guru of the Sikhs, Tegh Bahadur
Guru Tegh Bahadur(1621-1675) was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind. From a young age Tegh Bahadur was trained in the martial arts of swordsmanship and horse riding as well as religion.During his young years Tegh Bahadur fought along his father’s side but after Guru Hargobind’s fierce and bloody battle in 1634 at Kartarpur he turned to the path of renunciation and meditation. When Guru Hargobind settled down to live the rest of his life in peace, Tegh Bahadur spent nine years with his father before settling down at the isolated village of Bakala in 1656 and retired to a life of contemplation. He became known as “Tyag Mal” meaning “the Master of Renunciation”. Here Tegh Bahadur would spend many long years in meditation and prayer.
He becomes the 9th Guru
Guru Hargobind did not choose Tegh Bahadur as his successor because the Sikhs needed a leader of men, something still lacking in his young son, who had now chosen a path of renunciation. Instead Guru Hargobind chose Guru Har Rai his grandson as his natural successor. Guru Har Rai in turn chose his youngest son Guru Harkrishan as his successor but in 1664 Harkrishan became ill and died.So Tegh Bahadur became the new guru of the Sikhs or “disciples/learners” in Sanskrit.
An Assasination Attempt on him and he forgives the Perpetrator
One who was not happy was Dhir Mal, grandson of Guru Hargobind who had wanted to be the Guru since he was in possession of the Guru Granth Sahib. Dhir Mal became so angry that he tried to kill the new Guru. He sent men to attack the Guru while he slept. Dhir Mal’s men attacked the house of Guru Tegh Bahadur, shot the Guru and ransacked his belongings. Luckily Guru Tegh Bahadur was not seriously wounded. In retaliation loyal Sikhs raided Dhir Mal’s house, looting it including the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib and presented all of the bounty to the Guru as revenge. Guru Tegh Bahadur believed in forgiveness and ordered all of his property returned, including the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Persecution of Hindus by Aurangzeb
While the Guru was doing missionary activities in the country things were rapidly deteriorating under the tyrannous rule of emperor Aurengzeb. Since coming to power by imprisoning his father and killing his two brothers, Aurengzeb had been consolidating his power base. After ten years he now began to apply his power throughout the country. Aurengzeb was an orthodox Muslim who dreamed of purging India of all ‘infidels’ and converting it into a land of Islam. Aurengzeb had no tolerance for other religions and proceeded on a brutal campaign of repression. Famous Hindu temples throughout the country were demolished and mosques built in their place. Hindu idols were placed in the steps of mosques to be trod on by the feet of Muslim pilgrims. Aurangzeb issued a number of harsh decrees. In 1665 he forbade Hindus to display illuminations at Diwali festivals. In 1668 he forbade Hindu Jatras, in 1671 he issued an order that only Muslims could be landlords of crown lands, and called upon provincial Viceroys to dismiss all Hindu clerks. In 1669 he issued a general order calling upon all governors of all provinces to destroy the schools and temples of the Hindus; and they were told to put a stop to the teachings and practicing of idolatrous forms of worship. In 1674 lands held by Hindus in Gujarat, in religious grants were all confiscated.
The 9th Guru decides to Sacrifice his Life for those of another Religion
The viceroy of Kashmir decided to convert the Hindu population to Islam by the sword. The Hindu Brahmin Pandits of Kashmir were among the most highly learned and orthodox of the Hindu leadership. Aurangzeb felt if they could be converted, the rest of the country would easily follow. Given this ultimatum, a large delegation of 500 Kashmiri Pandits decided to journey to seek the help of Guru Tegh Bahadur.The Pandits met the Guru and explained their dire predicament to the Guru and requested the Guru to intercede on their behalf. As the Guru was pondering his nine year old son Gobind Rai walked into the room, noticing the serious and gloomy mood in the room the young Gobind asked his father what was happening. Guru Tegh Bahadur replied, “Unless a holy man lays down his head for the sake of the poor Brahmins, there is no hope for their escape from imperial tyranny.” Young Gobind replied, “Revered father, who would be better equipped for this than yourself?” Guru Tegh Bahadur hugged his son and wept for joy. “I was only worried about the future, for you are far too young”. “Leave me to God”, Gobind replied, “and accept the challenge of the Mughals.”
The Gurus still believed in the freedom of religion and the right of the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs to live in peace and practice their own religions. With this Guru Tegh Bahadur fought for freedom of religion and told the Pandits to inform Aurangzeb that the Brahmins would gladly accept and embrace Islam if Guru Tegh Bahadur can be convinced to do so. Guru Tegh Bahadur made preparations to leave for Delhi. he bid farewell to his family and followers and dictated that his son Gobind Rai should be installed as the next Guru. As soon as Aurangzeb heard the news he ordered the immediate arrest of the Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur and his party were arrested and taken in chains to Delhi.
Guru Tegh Bahadur reprimanded the emperor for his persecution of other faiths, “Hinduism may not be my faith, and I may believe not in the supremacy of Veda or the Brahmins, nor in idol worship or caste or pilgrimages and other rituals, but I would fight for the right of all Hindus to live with honour and practice their faith according to their own rites.” The Guru answered further, “Every ruler of the world must pass away, but not the Word of God or His Saint. This is how people not only call me a True King but have done so through the two centuries before me in respect of my House and also in respect of others who preceded them and identified themselves not with the temporal and the contingent, but with the eternal and the ever dying.”
The Guru refused to perform any miracles saying, “this is the work of charlatans and mountebanks to hoodwink the people. Men of God submit ever to the Will of God.” Guru Tegh Bahadur refused to embrace Islam, saying “For me, there is only one religion – of God – and whoever belongs to it, be he a Hindu or a Muslim, him I own and he owns me. I neither convert others by force, nor submit to force, to change my faith.” Aurangzeb was enraged and ordered Guru Tegh Bahadur to be forced to convert to Islam through torture or be killed.
The Torture and Death of Tegh Bahadur and 3 Fellow Sikhs
Guru Tegh Bahadur was subjected to many cruelties:
1.He was kept in an iron cage and starved for many days.
2.The Guru was made to watch as Bhai Mati Das,a devoted Sikh, was tied between two pillars and his body split in two by being sawn alive.
3.Bhai Dyala,another Sikh companion, was boiled alive in a cauldron of boiling water.
4.And Bhat Sati Das,another Sikh companion, was wrapped in cotton wool and set on fire.
5.The Guru bore these cruelties without flinching or showing any anger or distress. Finally on November 11, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur was publicly beheaded.
Thus ended the life of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Never in the annals of history has the religious leader of one religion sacrificed his life to save the freedom of another religion.