Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Each Guru has something special.
Or should I say, every Guru apart from having everything special about His or Her own Divinity, has something unique which mankind remembers for all of eternity.
Yes, there is a thread of cohesion in all of Them.
Divine radiance and fragrance are a mandatory essence of each One. The ability to see the past, present, future and beyond the beyond is part of the package deal. To be filled with the celestial powers comes with the territory. Their fundamental nature is that of Oneness and the need to spread the bouquet of Oneness is paramount in Their nature.
Their diet, speech, conduct, dress code may vary but what remains consistent is Their need to be filled and spread selfless love to one and all and credit everything beautiful and powerful in Them to the glory and grace of The Almighty.
Some of Them may perform miracles while many prefer not to, but what each One of Them has is in His and Her control are the five elements of nature. All each One wants to do is to take self destructive humanity towards The Light and eventually make every being become one with The Divine Radiance. They will stall Their merger with The Creator, in order to help Their children first merge.
Thus, each One may look and behave different but in essence They all are One.
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 as and will be referred to for eternity 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 because the ninth Guru fought for the rights and honour of Sikhs and Sikhism but because He 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.
Now enough of my ramblings. Let’s get to the story of the Ninth Guru of Sikhism, Guru Tegh Bahadur.
The ninth Guru was the fifth and the youngest son of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind and Bibi Nanki. He was born in Amritsar on April first, sixteen hundred and twenty one.
He was His father’s favourite and according to many destined to become the next Guru, which as history shows us, did not take place. At the age of fourteen itself He was a mountain of a man and went to war, showing His prowess at warfare, where He was given the name Tegh Bahadur. But He was since a child, reflective in nature and not worldly wise. He had a strange childhood. On one hand He was trained in martial arts, swordsmanship and all that which was required to become a Sikh warrior but also was taught everything that was needed to be learnt about spirituality, Sikhism and the beyond the beyond.
At the age of twelve, though some books say at the age of nine itself, He was married to Mata Gujari or Gujri, who would stand by Her husband like a rock.
His most memorable period was when He spent nine years with His father, the sixth Guru. Though all were convinced He would succeed His father and the seventh Guru, His father, Guru Hargobind decided that His son, lacked the vision and the worldly wise nature to lead the Sikhs. So Guru Hargobind chose Guru Har Rai, His grandson, as His successor. A lesser man would have felt slighted or would have revolted against this decision, but Guru Tegh Bahadur, calmly accepted this decision, with the firm conviction that His father knew best. In fact He was the first One to bow to Guru Har Rai Sahib.
Soon after the passing away of Guru Hargobind Sahib, His father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, with His mother and wife, left for Bakala, the native village of His mother Mata Nanki ji.
For the next two decades and more Guru Tegh Bahadur, lived a life of a devout Sikh, spending long hours in meditation. He lived a humble life, away from the hub of all that transpired in the world.
In the twenty and odd years, Guru Har Rai, before passing away, made His son, Guru Har Krishnan as the eight Guru. The eight Guru, according to many historians, contracted small pox, and before He passed away, completely exhausted, divulged that the ninth Guru would be found in Bakala….His last words were Baba Bakala.
News travelled fast that the ninth Guru was to be found in Bakala, and in minutes twenty two healthy and enterprising men, proclaimed that each one, was the ninth Guru. The Sikhs were left in a sort of a twilight, surreal zone, figuratively scratching their collective heads.
Thus, for a while, twenty two odd enterprising chaps, formed their groups, each group proclaiming that their boss-man was the ninth Guru. All this while, Guru Tegh Bahadur, continued to meditate, pray and go about life, silently.
There was great confusion going about. Who was the real Guru and how on earth was one to separate the grain from the very healthy chaff.
Dhir Mal, who possessed the first copy of Guru Arjan Singh’s, The Guru Granth Sahib, was the one who by the right of possession of the Guru Granth Sahib, professed and proclaimed himself to be the ninth Guru. Also he being the grandson of Guru Hargobind, the title of the ninth Guru, should by logic be conferred on to him.
A large part of the Sikh community was in favour of Guru Tegh Bahadur. He remained silent. He did not like the idea of fighting for the revered position held by His father. By nature Guru Tegh Bahadur was a quiet man. He prayed and meditated and all this talk and rivalry for such an exalted and pious position did not go down well with Him.
Then the miracle took place.
Far away, in the midst of a turbulent ocean, a business man by the name of Makhan Shah, was ferrying very expensive shipment and unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Sikhism, got caught in the eye of a storm. When he realised that all his invaluable cargo was going to rest peacefully at the bottom of the ocean, he prayed to Guru Nanak Ji, that if his cargo was saved and he reached the shore, he would donate five hundred gold coins to the Guru.
The storm subsided. Makhan Shah reached the shore safe and sound, along with his valuable possession. I assume he kissed mother earth and swore that apart from washing his body and drinking water, his tryst with water had ended for good.
Now he had to respect his vow. The problem lay in the fact that there were twenty two able bodied men all professing to be the ninth Guru. Makhan Shah had no intention of paying each one of them five hundred gold coins. That would have not made either business or spiritual common sense. So he did what he did best. Used his business acumen and met one by one all the twenty two religious entrepreneurs. He would humbly go, bow down to each one of them, and put two gold coins as his offering. Each of the twenty two holy men, would flash a broad smile, bless him with this and that and advise him to stand aside and ‘hawa anay dey’.
Makhan Shah was perplexed. He was forty four coins down and no real Guru in sight. If this continued he would not have any gold coins left. Disillusioned and forty four coins less, he was about to leave the place when a child told him that there was a holy man who stayed not far away with His mother and wife and it would do no harm to meet the holy man.
Makhan Shah went to meet Guru Tegh Bahadur who was meditating and thus he waited. When called in, Makhan Shah as usual dived at the feet of the Guru, removed two gold coins and placed them in front of the Guru. The Guru looked at him and smiled and told Makhan Shah that it was not about money nor was it about greed but it was a matter of principle, and as he had made a vow, he better cough up the other four hundred and ninety eight coins that had been promised to The Guru.
Saying this the Guru smiled. In the smile there was the mischievousness of a child and then sagacity of a sage. It never was about the money or the coins. It was all about love and a promise made in the name of love.
Makhan Shah, rushed to the balcony and screamed out that the ninth Guru was here and His name was Guru Tegh Bahadur.
After narrating his story the Sikhs rejoiced as here was a simple story of truth, faith and devotion and Guru Tegh Bahadur, being the son of the sixth Guru, was the One who would take the Sikhs forward.
This did not go down well with Dhir Mal, who ordered the assassination of Guru Tegh Bahadur. In the attempt, the Guru was injured and His house looted.
Makhan Shah took a few able bodied Sikhs, which itself is like taking an army of soldiers, and attacked Dhir Mal. They ransacked his place and got all the possessions along with the Guru Granth Sahib to the ninth Guru. The ninth Guru ordered the men to release Dhir Mal and his men, returned their possessions along with the Guru Granth Sahib. He was very clear that the only thing worth possessing was given by Guru Nanak Ji and that was the Name, the Nam, and if you had the Nam with you, one needed nothing more and nobody could ever steal this greatest of all wealth; The Name of God and Master.
It was common knowledge that the Guru would be bestowed with expensive gifts and presents but Guru Tegh Bahadur would touch all the gifts and present them to those around him, the poor and the needy. He lived a simple life. He had taken a whiff of the divine fragrance and had embraced the divine radiance, after this, there was nothing that could entrance Him or fascinate Him. All His life He lived with simplicity, always with the chant of God and Guru, going about His work, no matter how manual it be, with contentment and always ready to lend a helping hand.
He began to travel. His purpose was to revisit all those sites which were visited or touched by Baba Guru Nanak. Wherever He went He bettered the place. Dug wells. Built community centers that would take care of the ill, educate children and feed the hungry.
He took a dip in the holy waters of the Golden Temple but He was refused admission inside, as the Golden Temple was under the control of strange vested interests, and by those who had their own opinion of who should be the Guru.
Guru Tegh Bahadur moved away from the Golden Temple and went to a village called Walla or Wadala, where He resided in the humble dwelling of a disciple. The women in particular felt saddened that the Guru had to move away from Amritsar and thus by the cartloads they went to meet Him. They treated Him with so much love that He blessed Amritsar and the women folk that, ‘The love of God and devotion to God and Guru shall always reside in Amritsar and the women of Amritsar’.
The Guru travelled with His mother and wife, all over the country, wherever Guru Nanak had set His holy feet on. Wherever He went He preached Oneness and that to give one’s best to each moment and to work and in work chant and through chanting make the work one’s meditation and through the remuneration of the work, keep aside a little for those less fortunate, was the way of a true disciple and a true Sikh. This was His philosophy, as is the ideology of all The Gurus of Sikhism. They did not advise any norms but to be good, kind, hard working individuals. To spread goodness through honest work. Always be in the moment of chanting The Name. Always give your best and to serve those less fortunate. This is in essence the philosophy of The Gurus.
When the Guru’s wife was nearly forty two, His mother, reminded Guru Tegh Bahadur, that She had been promised that His son, would be like an oasis for the unfortunate and would lead Sikhism to a platform from which there would never be any looking back. Where was the much promised son?
The Guru smiled and shut His eyes and then told His mother that if She meditated on Guru Nanak, Her grandson would soon be born and in a matter of a few months, His wife Gujari or Gujri Mata conceived. The Guru then left His mother and wife in the able care of His disciples and continued His journey. He would meet His son, the tenth and last Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, when the lad was four to five years old.
All the while the Guru travelled, spread the Word, spread the message and pour forth the blessings of The Gurus and became much loved. He would often travel to far off places to enter the abode of those who awaited Him. Humble people who with love waited for the Guru to either enter their home or reside in their humble dwelling. Though those places were far and away, the Guru would make it a point, to all of a sudden appear and fulfill their desire to serve the Guru.
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.
Once when Raja Ram Singh sought His help against the King of Kamrum, another miracle took place. The King was known to have women in his kingdom who were rock-stars in the practice of witchcraft and thus his kingdom was rather dreaded. Nobody wants to be turned into a lamp-post. So Raja Ram Singh wanted the Guru’s help. The Guru was clear that He would come along to make peace amongst the warring parties as He was of the opinion that both Raja Ram and the King of Kamrup were inherently good beings. But the King of Kamrup was not aware of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s noble intentions. So our King called His women folk to destroy Raja Ram’s army. The women tried their stuff and eventually told the king that there was One amongst the Raja Ram’s brigade who was so powerful that witchcraft had no chance to spread its dark wings. The King thus went to Goddess Kamakshsha’s (or is it Maa Kamakshi’s) Temple. While there, his mother in law came and told him, that in her dream the Goddess had appeared and told her clearly that Guru Nanak had taken birth and His Seat or Throne was now entrusted to Guru Tegh Bahadur and that to trust in the wisdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur.
This convinced the King who went to meet the Guru and peace prevailed. Eventually the war was averted and the true power of Guru Tegh Bahadur was realised by both the kings. But the Guru like all Gurus, did not divulge His power or His status.
Thus, after five years of travel the Guru reached home to meet His son, who was four years old, for the first time. 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 Hindus 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 somber.
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 was the matter. 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 destiney 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 then 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 bother 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 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.
Satnam Wahe Guru.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha