A Black Day in Sikh History
24th november, 1675 marks one of the darkest days in the history of Sikhism. It was on this day, when Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of the Sikhs, was mercilessly tortured and later executed by the Mughals, leading in his martyrdom.
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyr’s day is observed every year on 24th November. Image Source: Wikipedia

Celebrated every year

Describing Guru Tegh Bahadur, his son, Guru Gobind Singh in the Vichitra Natak, a composition found in his autobiographical work, Sri Dasam Granth Saahib Ji, wrote,

“Dharam het saka jin kiya, sees diya par sir nahin diya (He sacrificed his life for dharma, he gave up his head but not his honour).”

Born in 1621 to Mata Nanki and Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru, Tegh Bahadur was always destined for greatness. He was initially named Tyagi Mal, for his ascetic nature, but at the tender age of 13, he defeated a mughal chieftain in a battle. His swordsmanship and courage led his father to rename him ‘Tegh Bahadur’, meaning ‘Mighty of the Sword’.

According to Sikh lore, Guru Tegh Bahadur was chosen as the ninth guru through an interesting encounter with a merchant. Following the death of the eighth guru, Har Krishan, a conflict broke out over his succession with many possible candidates claiming as the rightful successor. Unaware of these issues, a rich merchant, Makhan Shah, while caught in a sea storm, made a deal with the Almighty that he would give 500 gold coins to the reigning Guru if he survived. True to his word, Makhan Shah went in search of the Guru and was disappointed to learn that he was not chosen yet. Makhan Shah decided that the right Guru would know of his silent promise and so he started paying visits to every claimant, paying them a few gold coins, hoping atleast one of them would demand the exact sum. Finally, when the merchant met Guru Tegh Bahadur and offered him 2 gold coins, the Guru gave him his blessings and told him that he was falling short by 498 coins. Makhan Shah, in his happiness, went outside and screamed, “Guru ladho re (I have found the guru).”

As the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur traveled extensively to places including Malwa, Majha, Mathura, Dhaka, Assam and so on. He preached in the local mixed language of Sadhukkadi and Braj bhasha, urging his followers to be ‘nirvau’ (fearless) and ‘nirvair’ (without envy).

While many other people were moved by the spirituality and greatness of the Guru, there were however a few people who could not tolerate his popularity. The Sikhs had always been at conflict with the Mughals, who were weary of the growing military consolidation of the Sikhs, especially from the time of Guru Hargobind. The Mughals saw the Sikhs as a threat to Islam and had earlier executed Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru and tried to get rid of Guru Hargobind as well.

Guru Tegh Bahadur’s reign coincided with Aurangzeb, who was known for his orthodox religious views. His rule was marked by many forceful conversions among non-muslims, which Guru Tegh Bahadur began to oppose. He apparently preached against the practise of worshiping at the shrines of Pirs and Shaikhs, which was extremely important among the Sufis. His growing popularity led a local Mughal chieftain at Dhamtan near Jind in present-day Haryana, to conspire against him. He accused him of collecting revenue from the local people in the pretext of preaching. Although the Guru was eventually proven innocent, his conflict with the Mughals was far from over.

When he learnt of the forceful conversions of a group of Kashmiri Brahmins to Islam, he offered them protection and openly challenged the Mughals to convince him to convert first, before attempting to convert the Brahmins. This move provoked Aurangzeb and the Guru, along with two of his companions were arrested immediately. The mughals tortured them and asked them to convert to Islam, but the Guru and his companions resisted every attempt.

Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Chandni Chowk, was built at the exact spot where Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed. Image Source: So city

Finally, on 24th November, 1675, the emperor ordered their execution at Chandni Chowk, beginning with his three companions. Bhai Mati Das, was torn apart, Bhai Sati Das, was burnt to death, and Bhai Dyala ji, was put in boiling water. The Mughals till the last moment, kept asking them to convert but they continued to refuse till their last breaths. Guru Tegh Bahadur himself was beheaded and through this sacrifice, he achieved martyrdom. The present day Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib is the exact spot where the Guru and his followers were executed.

To commemorate this selfless act of the Guru and celebrate his bravery and fearlessness, the Sikhs celebrate 24th November as Shaheedi Divas every year. Some even regard this event as the first instance of martyrdom for human rights in the world.

Rituparna Goswami Author
I find happiness in mundane activities like spending time with my mom and dad, helping out around the house, watching funny youtube videos with my elder sister and so on. I don't believe in sticking to only one area or one skill. Life is too short to limit ourselves, isn't it? I am curious about almost anything and I love exploring new things. I read fiction novels and watch movies/series, when I feel too lazy to get up from my bed. I sing when I am in a really good mood. I'm quite easy to get along with and I love meeting or talking to new people. After all, every person has a unique story to tell and who doesn't love stories?

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