Martyrdoms of Sikh Gurus

Charnjit Singh Bal

Sikhism founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539 CE) in the late fifteenth century had to fight the two contemporary Goliaths, overt Islamic Jihad and covert Hinduism, for its survival. The history of progressive Sikhism that professes religious freedom, brotherhood of Man and socio-religious harmony is intertwined with the tyrannical Mogul imperialism that would have converted all non-Muslim populace of India to Islam if the Sikh Gurus hadn’t championed the cause of universal socio-religious freedom. For that noble cause Sikhism had to make supreme sacrifices including martyrdom of two Gurus, four juvenile sons of Guru Gobind Singh and numerous Sikh men, women and children. Whereas any signs of tyrannical Mogul imperialism have virtually been obliterated, Sikhism has culminated into one of the half a dozen major religions of the world.

Guru Arjun Dev's Martyrdom

In 1606, Guru Arjun Sahib was arrested on the false allegation of blessing Jahangir's rebellious son Khusro, who after his unsuccessful attempt to dethrone his father passed through Goindwal on his way to Iran. Guru Sahib was asked to choose between conversion to Islam or tortured to death. The Guru Arjun Sahib opted to be martyred for the noble cause of religious freedom rather than yield to the coercion to convert to Islam. The paragon of fortitude, Guru Sahib endured the torture while reciting Gurbani.

The actual reason for Guru Arjun Dev Sahib's martyrdom is evidenced by an entry made in Jahangir's autobiography. "In Goindwal, on bank of river Beas lived a Hindu by the name of Arjun in the guise of a Pir Fakir (eminent mendicant). He not only persuaded many innocent Hindus, but some naive and ignorant Muslims also to be his devotees; and was loudly beating his drum to proclaim his pious eminence and closeness to the God. People called him guru and came from all directions to congregate around him. They (the Sikh Gurus) have operated this prolific business briskly for three to four generations. Often the idea had come to my mind to either put an end to this nefarious business or to convert him to Islam. I was totally aware of his scam so I ordered that he be arrested, brought before me, his children be turned over to Murtza Khan (Governor of Punjab), his property be confiscated and he should be tortured to death."

Guru Teg Bahadur's Martyrdom

lftkhar Kan the Governor of Punjab (1671 to 1675) waged a campaign of terror and converted the Hindus to Islam at the point of the sword. Confident of the Sikh Gurus' invincible resolve to defend universal religious freedom, a delegation of sixteen Brahmins led by Kirpa Ram, beseeched Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib in 1675 to save their religion from the Muslim tyrants. Fully aware of the ominous consequences the Guru Sahib assured the delegation his help. To the zealot Muslim tyrants the Guru Sahib came to represent a charismatic leader of the non-Islamic, predominantly Hindu, segment of the multi religious society and threat to their evil designs to create an absolute Islamic society in India.

The Guru Sahib was arrested along with his three devoted disciples Satti Dass, Matti Dass (both brothers) and Dyal Dass at Mallikpur Rangra by Mirza Noor Mohammed, the jail warden of Roper, and taken to Delhi after being jailed for four months at Sirhind. Like his grandfather, Guru Arjan Dev Sahib, Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib was offered the choices of conversion to Islam or martyrdom. The indomitable Guru Sahib chose the latter. To intimidate Guru Sahib Matti Dass was sawed alive in two, Dyal Dass was boiled alive in a cauldron and Satti Dass was wrapped in cotton wool and burnt alive before him. The Governor and Quazi of Delhi tortured Guru Sahib for five days. Finally the Guru Sahib was martyred by beheading at the behest of Aurengzeb.

 The martyrdoms of the Sikh Gurus are unique exemplifications of ultimate sacrifices for a cause of the universal religious freedom. Since Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib championed the cause of religious freedom at the request of a Hindu delegation, many mischievous Hindus with ulterior motives and ignorant Sikhs portray Guru Sahib’s martyrdom as a sacrifice to save Hinduism because they want to propagate contemporary, progressive Sikhism as a sect of primeval Hinduism. The guru Sahibs would have done the same for the Muslims if they were victims of Hindu tyrrany.