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The Ninth Master Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621 - 1675)

Accompanied by his wife and mother Guru Tegh Bahadur traveled across the country. The Guru traveled throughout Punjab, wherever he would stop the Guru would get wells dug for the people and community kitchens set up. Guru Tegh Bahadur continued his tour through Haryana and arrived at Delhi. Here the Guru met the congregations of Delhi who came out in large numbers to see the Guru. The emperor Aurangzeb was away from Delhi at this time. Guru Tegh Bahadur then continued his mission of preaching to the masses, visiting Kurekshetra, Agra, Ittawa and Allahabad. Wherever the Guru stopped he would preach about honest work and charity. The Guru would also give away all the offerings that he would receive from devotees. At Priyag, the Gurus wife Gujri conceived a child. The Guru then traveled onto the holy Hindu city of Banaras and then onto Gaya and Patna. Guru Tegh Bahadur was requested by custodians of the various temples that he visited to perform rituals and ceremonies for himself and his ancestors, but the Guru refused saying, "He who trusts in God and makes an honest living to share with others and injures no one, nor harbors ill-will against another need perform on other rituals. His soul ever stays in health. And, as for the ancestors, they gather the reward of what they themselves have sown and no one can bless or curse them after they are gone."

Guru Tegh Bahadur now arrived at Patna where he stayed for some time. The Guru left his family here, as his wife Mata Gujri was expecting their child and moved onwards with his tour to Dacca and the eastern most parts of India not visited since the time of Guru Nanak. Sikh congregations were very jubilant to see their Guru. In December of 1666 while on his eastern tour Guru Tegh Bahadur received the news that he had been blessed with a child, a son named Gobind Rai. This eastern tour would last three years as Guru Tegh Bahadur visited as many people as he could. While in Assam in 1668 Guru Tegh Bahadur was able to achieve a peace treaty between the ruler of Ahom and a large force sent by Aurengzeb under the command of Raja Ram Singh of Amber. In 1669-1670 Guru Tegh Bahadur started the journey homeward and traveled to Patna to see his young son Gobind Rai for the first time. Here Guru Tegh Bahadur spent over a year with his family training his son in the Sikh Scriptures, horse riding and swordsmanship. Guru Tegh Bahadur then sent his family onto Punjab while he continued his missionary work. The Guru finally returned home to Anandpur Sahib in 1672-1673. Here thousands of devotees flock to see and hear the Guru.

While the Guru attended to his devotees at Anandpur, things in the country 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 trodden 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 with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels; 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.

In this climate of intolerance the viceroy of Kashmir Iftikhar Khan took to the task of forcibly converting 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. He did not want to see the talik (holy mark on the forehead) or janaeu (sacred thread) on any of his subjects. Given this ultimatum, a large delegation of 500 Kashmiri Pandits decided to journey to Anandpur Sahib to seek the help of Guru Tegh Bahadur. This delegation was led by Pandit Kirpa Ram Datt (who would later on become the Sanskrit teacher of Guru Gobind Singh and eventually become a Khalsa and died fighting in the battle of Chamkaur). 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 over the issue 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."

Even though Guru Nanak had refused to wear the sacred thread when he was young, 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 laid down the gauntlet in the fight 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. Accompanying the Guru on his journey and also prepared to accept the consequences of whatever happened were Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Dyala and Bhai Sati Das. As soon as Aurangzeb heard the news he ordered the immediate arrest of the Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur and his party were arrested soon after they left Anandpur Sahib and taken in chains to Delhi.

When brought before Aurangzeb, he was asked why he was hailed as the Guru or prophet and called 'Sacha Padsah' (the True King) and if he really believed in his being one he should perform a miracle to justify his claim. Guru Tegh Bahadur reprimanded the emperor for his blind orthodoxy and 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 whosoever 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.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was subjected to many cruelties, he was kept in an iron cage and starved for many days. The Guru was made to watch as Bhai Mati Das the devoted Sikh was tied between two pillars and his body split in two by being sawn alive. Bhai Dyala was boiled alive in a cauldron of boiling water and Bhat Sati Das was wrapped in cotton wool and set on fire. The Guru bore these cruelties without flinching or showing any anger or distress. Finally on November 11, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur was publicly beheaded with the sword of the executioner as he prayed. The Gurus body was left in the dust as no one dared to pick up the body for fear of the emperors reprisal. A severe storm swept through the city and under the cover of darkness a Sikh named Bhai Jaita managed to collect the Guru's sacred head and carried it off to Anandpur Sahib to the Guru's son. Another Sikh Bhai Lakhi Shah who had a cart, was able to smuggle the Gurus headless body to his house. Since a public funeral would be too dangerous, Bhai Lakhi Shah cremated the body by setting his house on fire. Meanwhile the head was taken to the grief stricken young Guru Gobind Singh and the widow Mata Gujari. On November 16, 1675 at Anandpur Sahib, a pyre of sandalwood was constructed, sprinkled with roses and the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated by young Guru Gobind Singh.

Thus ended the earthly reign of the ninth Nanak, 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.

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