Sunday, October 22, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism


FENECH, LOUIS E., The Journal of the American Oriental Society, January 1, 2001

Popular Sikh histories of today are united in their claim that the execution in 1606 of the fifth Sikh Master, Guru Arjan has always been understood as an heroic martyrdom. Yet the fact that this event is not mentioned either in the Bachitar Natak, the first Sikh text to allocate privileged space to martyrdom, nor in subsequent eighteenth-century Khalsa Sikh literature of the gur-bilas genre, makes such a claim very difficult to sustain. This paper turns a critical eye towards these sources and speculates as to how Sikhs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in fact understood Guru Arjan's demise.

Seva hari gur thim kurban [1]
To become a sacrifice for the sake of the Guru is the [true] service of God.

FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF contemporary Sikh scholars, the tradition of martyrdom (sahidi) in Sikhism begins with the execution of the fifth Sikh master, Guru Arjan, in 1606 A.D. According to Sikh tradition, the Guru incurred the displeasure of the Mughal emperor Jahangir by supporting the emperor's recalcitrant son Khusrau's claim to the throne, an act which saw Guru Arjan jailed, beaten, and subsequently fined. On his refusal to pay the fine the Guru was quickly executed in Lahore on Jahangir's orders. In popular Sikh historiography, the implications of Guru Arjan's claim to martyrdom are made obvious. Firstly, that Guru Arjan himself conceived of his imminent demise as that of an heroic martyr and, secondly, that the Sikhs of the fifth Guru's day likewise shared this understanding of his death. [2]

These are indeed important traditions, traditions that have helped shape the direction and destiny of the Sikh Panth during this last century. And although they lack the support of any explicit evidence in contemporary sources, there may nevertheless be available for them implicit reinforcement, derived from an investigation of the earliest manuscripts of the Adi Granth.

In just such an examination, Pashaura Singh has come to a conclusion significant for these traditions. He states that the inclusion of heroic ballads in the scripture begins not with the sixth Sikh Guru, Hargobind, as general Sikh tradition maintains, [3] but with Guru Arjan. This is, of course, a logical conclusion since, according to Sikh tradition, Guru Arjan was clearly the moving force behind the creation of a Sikh scripture. [4] Pashaura Singh notes in his analysis of these earliest manuscripts that, while compiling the Adi Granth in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Guru Arjan recognized the high regard exhibited by the rural population of the Punjab for the heroic ballad (var) and himself selected the epic tunes (dhuni) of these ballads at the beginning of the vars in different rag sections of the Adi Granth. This process of appropriation, we are told, was undertaken in order to attract this rural audience, particularly those of Jat caste, to the Sikh faith. As our author makes clea r, however, the fifth Guru selected such dhunis "only for their musical directions, not for propagating the heroic stories behind them." [5] These are all debatable points, the last one in particular, since the values which were inscribed in the heroic stories the tunes carried would have probably become associated with the Sikh faith, a possibility that Guru Arjan, an exceptionally gifted compiler and poet, would not have overlooked. [6]

With Singh's illuminating evidence at hand one can well speculate that Guru Arjan appreciated these heroic values. He may have himself thus felt that both his self-conscious defiance of Mughal authority (if such actually occurred) and his imminent death were heroic acts, perhaps those of a martyr. It is entirely possible, finally, that his Sikhs also understood the fifth Master's actions in this way. Since at least the middle of the nineteenth century, Sikh tradition has affirmed all of this as beyond doubt. Guru Arjan died the glorious death of the heroic martyr, and his son, in response to his father's ordeal, enjoined his Sikhs to bear arms to protect themselves and all those considered righteous.

Such an understanding of the fifth Guru's demise, however, clearly veers into the realm of conjecture for a number of reasons. Two of these reasons, in particular, were presented in one of my previous essays. I shall briefly summarize them here. [7] Firstly a meticulous analysis of contemporary and near-contemporary sources does not substantiate the claims of Sikh tradition. Such analysis, in other words, makes it clear that many scholars extrapolate far too much from these texts, filling in the numerous gaps in the narrative these sources supply with popular understandings forged in later centuries. And, secondly, I seriously doubt that martyrdom as a concept was present in the Sikh tradition during the early to mid-seventeenth century, inasmuch as an investigation of the many hymns in the Adi Granth used by traditional Sikh scholars to support the presence of this conceptual system are always taken out of context and misconstrued. It appears to me that the relatively stable political and social atmosphere o f sixteenth-century northern India, due in large part to the benign policies of the emperor Akbar and to the relatively small size of the Sikh Panth, did not necessitate such a generalized doctrine of redemptive death.

Since the publication of that article in early 1997, what has continued to intrigue me about the fifth Guru's demise is not so much the concrete events that led to his execution or accompanied his death. Although we do not know how the Guru actually died--a point about which Sikh tradition itself is also confused--we do know that Guru Arjan earned the disapproval of the Mughal authorities for his apparent support of Prince Khusrau's claim to the throne and was therefore killed by them. This fact is beyond doubt, because of the testimony found in the memoirs of the emperor Jahangir, the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri primarily, and, to a lesser extent, in both the Dabistan-i Mazahib or "School of Religions," a contentious Persian text dealing with Indian religions attributed to either Mohsin-i Fani or Zulfiqar Ardastani, and the account that appears in a letter written by the Jesuit missionary Jerome Xavier in late September 1606, just months after the Guru's death. [8] All these reports are relatively contemporaneous with the fifth Master's execution and their evidence, its brief and ambivalent nature notwithstanding, provides the earliest available account of it.

What interests me particularly is how Guru Arjan's death was construed by the Sikhs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Did Sikhs of these two periods perceive this death as heroic, perhaps that of an heroic martyr? Although I have shown that Sikhs of the early- to mid-seventeenth century would not likely have perceived this death as a martyrdom, since this concept had not yet been elaborated, I have not analyzed just how the Sikhs of this period did interpret the execution of Guru Arjan. The following section will attempt this. The concept of martyrdom, "heroic death with the hope of posthumous recognition and anticipated reward," [9] however, does appear in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. How, therefore, do Sikhs of this later time understand Guru Arjan's demise and what then does this say about eighteenth-century Sikh understandings of the concept which Sikh authors will only later term sahidi or sahadat? [10] It is very tempting to see the gur-bilas and rahit-nama authors of the eighteenth century sharing an understanding of Guru Arjan's death and execution that corresponds with today's general interpretation. This is indeed a powerful temptation since many of today's Sikh histories refer to these very gur-bilas authors when making their claims in regard to Guru Arjan's execution. An examination of the eighteenth-century Sikh sources, however, demonstrates otherwise. Let us begin our discussion with a better understanding of what constituted an heroic death in the earliest Sikh literature since, in later Sikh tradition, the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, as well as every other Sikh martyrdom, is perceived as such.


Although a careful reading of the Adi Granth will fail to define what a specifically "heroic" death entailed during the period of the first nine Sikh Gurus, we may partially reconstruct this understanding by implication. There are, after all, a number of references to the lifestyles of "true heroes" (sura, sur, vir, surbir) in the text and these certainly tell us how one lived heroically, according to the Sikh Gurus. We may only assume, however, that the death of anyone who died emulating these "heroic" values may have been understood as a heroic one. The two Gurus who have the most to say about the hero's lifestyle are Nanak and Arjan. A hero, according to Guru Nanak, embodies the following qualities:

sabadi sur jug chare audhu bani bhagati vichari [11]
O bhagat, it is only through the contemplation of the mystical word inscribed within and without the cosmos that you can become a [true] hero (sur) throughout the four ages. [You must therefore] contemplate the sacred utterances of the Guru [with deep devotion).

Guru Arjan would no doubt concur with the first Guru, as the statement below makes clear:

Jo isu mare soi sura [12]
The one who destroys [duality] is the [true] hero (sura).

And so too would the third Sikh Guru, Amar Das, agree with this general understanding:

nanak so sura variamu jini vichahu dusatu ahankaranu maria [13]
The [true] hero, says Nanak, [14] is the one who overcomes within [himself] the enemy of self-centredness.

These are merely three of many such descriptions of the true hero, all of which bear the same imprint. Commensurate with the understandings of other religious and secular personages mentioned in the Adi Granth, the true hero is defined by the Sikh Gurus principally in spiritual terms, alluding once more to the primacy of these concerns in their thought. [15] It is not the victorious soldier or the warrior of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana who merits the status of hero, in other words, but the pious Sikh who contemplates the sabad and "sees" the mystical presence of the divine throughout creation, thereby destroying difference.[16] According to Guru Nanak, true heroism lay not in victory over others but in vanquishing the self through the remembrance of the divine name:

Mani jitai jagu jitu [17]
By conquering the self one conquers the world.

The closest understanding of an heroic death which the Adi Granth provides, differs, however, from that of the later "hero." In the first Master's well-known Rag vadahansu alahaniam 2, for example, the following passages notes that

maranu munasam suriam haqqu hai Jo hoi marani paranano / sure sei agai akhiamhi daragah pavamhi sachi mano [18]
Blessed is the death of heroic men (munasam suriam) if their dying is approved of (by the immortal Lord]. Only these men may be called heroes who obtain true honor before the Court [of Akal Purakh].

Guru Arjan, likewise, maintains, in his Ruti or hymns on the seasons and months of the Indian calendar, that

jin junia sei tare se sure se bir / nanak tin baliharanai hari japi utare tir [19]
Those who know Him, cross over [the Ocean of Existence]; they are the brave heroes (sure), the heroic warriors (bir). Nanak is a sacrifice to those who meditate on the name of Hari, and cross over to the other shore.

Although these hymns are perhaps purposefully vague in their attempts to encompass many types of death (we can only assume, for example, that our own death will be deemed praiseworthy) we may infer that an heroic death in the context of the Adi Granth is the death of an individual who had constantly remembered the nam inscribed within and without creation during his life. The contemporary account of Guru Arjan's death would certainly fit this definition. For during the last moments of his life, so tradition adamantly claims (a claim which we have no reason to contest), Guru Arjan's attention was focused solely on the divine, totally engrossed in the act of nam simaran, the Sikh discipline of remembering the divine name. [20]


Although later tradition makes it clear that Sikhs interpreted the fifth Master's demise as that of an heroic martyr, seventeenth-century Sikh and Persian accounts say very little of how the nascent Panth understood Guru Arjan's death. [21] Part of the reason for this may be that Guru Arjan's execution was purposefully kept a private affair. This is a strong possibility since there exists no evidence to suggest that Guru Arjan's execution was public. The cause for which the Guru died (if there was one), an essential component in the transformation of a victim into a martyr, therefore, would not have been known or made known, as the event lacked a Sikh witness. Later Sikh tradition, of course, supplies both spectators and a cause, [22] but all that the Sikhs of the fifth Guru's immediate period and afterwards would have known, probably, is that the fifth Master died while in the custody of the Mughal nawab of Lahore. The Dabistan-i Mazahib, an account written some forty years after Guru Arjan's execution, doe s indeed note that at least some Sikhs knew that the fifth Master had died at the hands of the Mughals. After stating that the fifth Guru had been arrested by the authorities for his alleged support of Khusrau, the author claims that Guru Arjan


[Glave up his life as a result of the heat of the sun, the severity of summer, and the torments [inflicted upon him] by the bailiffs (azar-i mohassalun).

This is an observation most likely attributable to a Sikh informant, perhaps Guru Hargobind or Guru Har Rai, the two Gurus whom the author allegedly knew. Yet even here there is no mention of the Sikh reaction to or conceptualization of this event.

The closest we come to a contemporary understanding of Guru Arjan's death from a Sikh account, however, is the twenty-third pauri of the twenty-fourth var of Bhai Gurdas. Based upon the criteria noted above it is clear that the entire pauri presents the Guru's life and death as that of a hero. Yet tradition takes this conclusion one step further. It maintains, for example, that the third stanza of pauri 23 deals solely with the fifth Guru's stoic composure as he was subjected to horrific tortures by the minions of Jahangir.

sabadu surati liv mirag jiu bhir pat chiti avaru na anti [24]
[Like] the deer [which even after being captured remains intoxicated by the sound of the hunter's bell] so too was [the Guru] wholly absorbed in the contemplation of the divine Word resounding throughout the universe (sabad) at the time of his distress (bhir). Nothing else came into his mind.

Let us never underestimate the power of Sikh tradition: even for a careful historian of the Panth this statement is enough to establish that Bhai Gurdas admires the exceptional composure of Guru Arjan under vicious torture. [25] This claim, however, is a conclusion that is based only on the assumption that the pauri deals with Guru Arjan's execution. In the seventeenth century (and even today) this line, indeed the entire pauri, would have been construed as a poetic expression characteristic of the death of a holy and pious person. [26] Other lines in this pauri likewise compare Guru Arjan with forms of animal and insect life (the fish, the moth, the bee, and the rain-bird [papiha], respectively) to describe his joti jot samauna, "the merging of one's light with the divine Light," in ways which would have been characteristic of the period in which these hymns were composed. The second line, for example, states in typical fashion that

darasanu dekhi patang jiu joti andari joti samani [27]
Having taken a privileged divine sight [of the Eternal Guru, Guru Arjan] merged his light into the divine tight [which is Akal Purakh] in the same way that a moth [is, on sight, attracted to and ultimately extinguished within the candle's flame].

The image of the moth and the flame of the candle is, of course, met with not only within the Adi Granth, in describing the ultimate stage of equipoise but also in the earliest Sufi poetry describing [fana.sup.[contains]], the annihilation of the self in God. [28] It appears then that many Sikh authors take the third line of the pauri out of context by interpreting the word bhir to signify torture, a word that occurs often in the Adi Granth and usually means "distress" or "hardship." [29] Although torture is a credible understanding of the term bhir in the light of later Sikh interpretations, it is an understanding that can only have tradition as its base. As Surjit Hans has demonstrated, a historically contextualized reading of Guru Arjan's hymns appears to demonstrate that the fifth Sikh Master was plagued by a number of difficulties during his tenure as Guru, [30] a contention also supported by Sikh tradition. It may be that Bhai Gurdas is alluding to these alleged hardships.

Nevertheless let us keep in mind that what is important for our purposes here is not whether this pauri deals with Guru Arjan's execution; although how Guru Arjan dies or the cause for which he dies is left unsaid, it is quite certain that the pauri does deal with Guru Arjan's final hours. And in this treatment it allows us to infer that Bhai Gurdas understood the fifth Master's death as that of a hero, since the description of Guru Arjan's life and last moments in this var conform to the pattern of the hero's life and death we noted in the Adi Granth. We can only assume that Bhai Gurdas' understanding would have been shared by the many Sikhs who formed his principal audience in the first part of the seventeenth century.


Although the words sahid and sahidi will not be adopted by Sikh authors to describe Sikh martyrs and Sikh martyrdom, respectively, until the early nineteenth century, it is in the Bachitar Natak, a late seventeenth- or early eighteenth-century text attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, that the concept of martyrdom finally makes its way into the Sikh tradition. The relevant passage is in regard to the execution of the tenth Guru's father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, at Delhi in November 1675. [31] As I have mentioned elsewhere, it is in this passage that we first discover that one will enter heaven as a consequence of sacrificing himself for the "sake of righteousness" (dharam het). It is in this passage, in other words, that we find something altogether new to the Sikh tradition. [32]

In the light of the development of the idea of the heroic redemptive death one would therefore expect the demise of Guru Arjan to merit the same attention in the literature of the eighteenth century as that bestowed upon the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, and to be thus glorified and extolled as that of an heroic martyr. After all, not only was the fifth Sikh master a Guru but he was also the great grandfather of the alleged author and principal protagonist of the Bachitar Natak, Guru Gobind Singh. Yet, surprisingly, the only reference we have to Guru Arjan in the whole text of the Bachitar Natak is very brief, mentioning only that the divine light of Guru Nanak had been passed onto him and then, subsequently, onto the fifth Guru's son, Guru Hargobind. [33] In other words, nothing is said of Guru Arjan's death. And this will remain the case throughout the first part of the eighteenth century.

The situation becomes somewhat less opaque in the mid to late 1740s with the completion of the rahit-nama attributed to Chaupa Singh Chhibbar, a brahmin Sikh writer in the entourage of Guru Gobind Singh, who, according to tradition, himself was martyred in 1723, alongside the adopted son of Mata Sundari, Ajit Singh. [34] In this rahit-nama we find two possible references to one of the alleged antagonists of Guru Arjan, Chandu Shah, a wealthy Sahi Khatri of Lahore. According to a prevailing Sikh tradition, Chandu Shah, who was employed as a revenue official to the Mughal nawab of Lahore, was humiliated when Guru Arjan refused to permit his own son, the future Guru Hargobind, to marry the arrogant Khatri's daughter. Seeking revenge for the refusal, Chandu Shah slandered the Guru and had him brought up before the nawab on false charges of treason. The Guru was summoned to Lahore, imprisoned, and executed. [35] Although the author of the Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama does not identify Chandu Shah by name, he does clai m the following, in his long list of offenses against the Rahit that are subject to punishment:

jo guru ka sikh hot ke sirind vale khatri sucha jhutha ate sahi khatri ina da sati vari muhu phitakare bina nau lae so tanakhahia [36]

The Sikh of the Guru who fails to utter the seven-fold curse whenever a reference is made to [either] that Khatri of Sirhind [who was called] Sucha-[nand but who treacherously demonstrated that he should properly be called] Jutha-[nand], or to that Sahi Khatri [of Lahore] shall be labeled a Sikh who is worthy of a punishment (tanakhahta). [37]

What this actually means for later Sikh historians is subject to conjecture. Does the reference to the "Sahi Khatri" actually indicate the now-infamous Chandu Shah of Lahore? If so why does a reference to him make it mandatory for a Sikh to utter the sevenfold curse? Although the allusion is unclear, Piar Singh Padam, in his compendium of rahit-nama traditions, states that it is in fact Chandu Shah. His version of this passage, for example, replaces sahi khatri with chandusahi khatri. [38] But again, this is based only upon later Sikh tradition.

But it is a well-warranted conjecture, as it finds some support in another, later Chhibbar text, the Bansavalinama Dasam Patsahiam ka of Kesar Singh Chhibbar, completed in 1769. Although the references in regard to the Guru Arjan--Sahi Khatri narrative are likewise vague in the Bansavali-nama Chandu Shah is named in an earlier narrative concerning events that took place in 1578 (s. 1635), as the leader (musandi) of the Sahi Khatris of Lahore. This narrative deals with Guru Ram Das' refusal to allow the betrothal (kuramai) of his son, the future Guru Arjan to a daughter of the vicious Sahi Khatris. [39] This anecdote also appears in the Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama but, again, without direct reference to Chandu Shah. [40]

Although it is quite clear that both of these allegedly Chhibbar products draw upon similar sources in the construction of their narratives, [41] the Bansavali-nama is the very first Sikh text to deal specifically with the death of Guru Arjan Ultimately, Kesar Singh, a Chhibbar brahmin Sikh, whose Bansavali-nama draws upon the ubiquitous puranic cosmology also found in the lengthier portions of the Dasam Granth, interprets Guru Arjan's death by reference to the laws of karma. [42] He nevertheless indicates, as well, that the execution was the result of the combined machinations of the Sahi Katris and the fifth Guru's elder brother, Prithi Chand, who, according to tradition, had coveted the guruship of the Sikhs and had presented, spuriously, his own compositions as those of the legitimate Sikh Guru in order to bolster his claim. [43] To this end Kesar Singh notes that Guru Arjan was taken to Lahore and jailed through the collective efforts of these detractors.

ek mas sram pai tin pran tiage / tis ka badala lain tha sase abhage / soi sasa prithia hoi janama hoi janama bhai / it karan vahu vairu kamai [44]

He then states that the Guru suffered hardship for a whole month, after which he gave up his life. It was that inauspicious, hare-marked phase of the moon [45] which enabled [both Prithi Chand and the offended Sahi Khatris] to take their revenge. Prithi Chand was born under that phase of the moon and so he performed hostile deeds.

Before the month was up, Kesar Singh continues, burning sand was poured over Guru Arjan's body, which was subsequently bound and thrown into the Ravi River, where the Guru died. [46]

Yet as horrible an ordeal as this may have been for our Chhibbar author, what appears to be his principal focus is not so much the actual torture and execution of Guru Arjan as his belief that

so ehu badala turkam pasom kise sikh na lita [47]
There was no Sikh who could exact vengeance from the Muslims (turkam) [for the heinous deed of killing Guru Arjan].

This statement may perhaps account for Chaupa Singh's reference to the uttering of the sevenfold curse we noted earlier, since the curse may be interpreted as a form of symbolic revenge. Kesar Singh's statement, however, may also be explained in the light of his most prolific chapter, the tenth, which deals with Guru Gobind Singh, the founder of the Khalsa.

The strict impression one receives from the rather lengthy account of Guru Gobind Singh's attempts to summon the Mata Devi (10: 53-175) is that the tenth Sikh master creates the Khalsa in order to avenge the death of his father, the martyr Guru, Tegh Bahadur. [48] Kesar Singh knew full well that in the early seventeenth century there had been no attempt to inaugurate such a righteous order of saint-soldiers in order to exact vengeance for the execution of the fifth Guru. But by no means is Kesar Singh's spiteful passage at the end of his Guru Arjan narrative meant to detract from the glory of the sixth Sikh master, Guru Hargobind, or from the Sikhs of that period. Clearly, Kesar Singh treats Guru Hargobind with all due reverence and does the same for his Sikhs. [49] The statement may be interpreted rather as an attempt to foreshadow and further glorify the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh, the group that Kesar Singh will later have the tenth Guru himself refer to as "liberated [Sikhs]" (mukate), one of four subdi visions of the Sikh Panth. [50] For Kesar Singh, this was the true self-respecting Khalsa community of the early eighteenth century, a group that was to be distinguished from the rapacious Khalsa Sikh rulers of his day (whom he terms "avaricious [maiki] Sikhs"), the very same rulers who failed to patronize Kesar Singh and the rest of the Chibbar brahmin Sikhs. The "liberated" were those Khalsa Sikhs who could and indeed did extract blood for blood, upholding their personal and collective honor and self-respect in the process. As Kesar Singh's Chhibbar predecessor had said some twenty-five or so years before the completion of the Bansavali-nama:

Singh sikhu sai hai jo guru ka vairu lae [51]

A [true] Singh is a Sikh who avenges the Guru.

A reading of Kesar Singh Chhibbar's narrative of the execution of Guru Arjan in the light of these passages leaves one with the idea that our author does not understand the fifth Guru's demise as that of an heroic martyr. Instead, Guru Arjan is presented as a victim of the combined schemings of Prithi Chand, the Sahi Khatris, the Muslim authorities, karma, and the inauspicious phases of the moon. By "victim" here I do not mean to imply the vicarious sacrificial victim that Guru Tegh Bahadur is often understood to be, but rather an innocent victim in the strict sense of the term. [52] What this suggests for our purposes, of course, is that although Guru Arjan's death may have been considered heroic (but Kesar Singh never explicitly states this) it was certainly not conceived of as that of a martyr before the middle of the eighteenth century. Were his execution judged in this way, there is simply no doubt whatsoever that the fifth Guru would have received far more attention in the Sikh texts of this period tha n he does, particularly since martyrdom occupies privileged space in these sources. Indeed, in the many texts that comprise the Dasam Granth, especially the Bachitar Natak; in Sainapati's Sri Gur-sobha; in the works of the Chhibbar brahmins; and in the very late eighteenth century gur-bilas text attributed to Sukha Singh, the Gurbilas Patsahi 10, references to martyrdom abound but there are no attempts to understand the fifth Guru's demise in this light. [53] Even as late as 1841, in what is perhaps the most important of all Sikh examples of the gur-bilas genre, Ratan Singh Bhangu's Gur-panth Prakas, the first Sikh text repeatedly to expatiate upon sahid and sahidi, we find nothing more than one solitary line in regard to the death or execution of Guru Arjan, and this as an afterthought in a discussion of the debased nature of the Mughal state. Here Bhangu asks:

kaya guru arjan darayai na borayo /kaya tegh bahadar sis na tarayo [54]

Was Guru Arjan not thrown into the river [by the Mughals]? Was [Guru] Tegh Bahadur's head not cut off [by them as well]?

Why Guru Arjan was thrown into the Ravi is left unsaid. It is not until the later gur-bilas literature, in particular Santokh Singh's famous Gur-pratap Suraj Granth of 1843, that we finally find Guru Arjan's death being related in some detail, with the clear implication that he died the death of a martyr. [55] Perhaps the reasons for the conspicuous absence of any such death narrative in early Sikh literature may be discovered by examining just what constituted martyrdom in the so-called heroic period of Sikh history, the eighteenth century.


I have examined the type of martyrdom that is often proclaimed in these earliest texts elsewhere, but I think it requires further elaboration for the purpose at hand. The ideal redemptive heroic death we find in this early literature is one which almost always occurs on the battlefield during a righteous war (dharam yudh), and one which is also intimately associated with the Sikhs, and after 1699, with the Khalsa Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh. Examples within the literature of this period are indeed commonplace. Since all the gur-bilas and rahit-nama authors of the eighteenth century were familiar with the Bachitar Natak, arguably the first example of the gur-bilas genre, let us look there.

The eighth canto of this text deals specifically with the famous battle of Bhangani, which took place in September 1688 between the forces of Guru Gobind Singh and those of his traditional adversaries, the Hindu princes of the hill states. In the poet's verses dealing with the death of Guru Gobind Singh's cousin, Sango Shah, we have observed elsewhere how this death was presented as martyrdom. [56] Death in battle has the same consequence in Bachitar Natak 8:26, which deals with Raja Hari Chand, the heroic ruler of Handur hill state and committed adversary of the Sikh Panth:

chhuti murachhana harichandam sambharam / gahe ban kaman bhe air mare / lage angi ja ke rahe na sambharam / tanam tiag te devlokam padharam [57]

Now [the brave] Hari Chand had [finally] come to his senses, and catching hold of his bow and quiver of arrows he furiously pulled the shafts back and let them fly. [Any Sikh] who was struck by one [of these missiles] was instantly killed and, abandoning his mortal frame, would make his way into heaven (dev-lok).

That the deaths of Sango Shah and the Sikhs facing Hari Chand represented the ideal, redemptive demise of the time is underlined by the famous passage we find in the Chandi Charitr (Acts of [the goddess] Chandi), also attributed to Guru Gobind Singh:

dehi siva bar mohi ihai subh karaman te kabahum na tarom na darom ari som jab jai larom nisachai kar apani jit karom aru sikh hom apane hi man ko ih lalach hau gun tau ucharom jab av ki audh nidan banai ati hi ran mai tab jujh marom [58]

O Lord of might, grant that I may not be deterred from performing righteous deeds. That I may fight with faith and without fear against my enemies, and win. The wisdom I require is the grace to sing your glory. When my end is near may I meet death on the battlefield.

What is especially important in this passage is its final sentence, an importance underscored by the fact that it also appears (only very slightly modified) in the Krisanavatar, a narrative of Krishna's battles that is also part of the Dasam Granth. [59]

Of course, in the Bachitar Natak it is not Khalsa Sikhs with whom we are dealing since, according to tradition, this text was composed before the formation of the martial band in 1699. It would rather be in the Sri Gur-sobha, a gur-bilas text composed by Kavi Sainapati, one of the fifty-two "courtly jewels" of the tenth Guru, that redemptive death becomes the prerogative of Khalsa Sikhs alone. Probably finalized early after the foundation of the Khalsa, Sri Gur-sobha's main purpose is to narrate the glories of this martial spiritual order. [60] Such an association between Khalsa Sikhs and redemptive martyrdom thus comes as no surprise. Although, in this text, specific words for martyrdom and martyr are lacking, the concepts are easily inferred: Sikh warriors die in battle as Singh warriors of the Khalsa and are instantly greeted by shouts of triumph in paradise. [61]

Such understandings of martyrdom as death in a dharam yudh, which appear in these earliest Sikh texts, are also representative of the general interpretations found in the gur-bilas and rahit-nama texts of the mid-to-later portions of the eighteenth century. These texts would include the Chaupa Singh Rahit nama, Kesar Singh's Bansavali-nama, as well as Sukha Singh's Gurbilas Patsahi 10, which was completed in 1798. Kesar Singh, in his narrative on the battle of Bhangani, notes, for example, that the Sikhs were faring well against their adversaries, but that

urak suramiam siru dena / sis de ke svarag lainu [62]

Finally, the [Sikh] warriors [of Guru Gobind Singh] were [being killed and thus were] sacrificing their lives [on the field of battle]. Tendering their heads [in the service of the Guru and the defense of the Panth] they were taken to paradise.

As well, in the section of his text dealing with the mission of the tenth Guru, Chaupa Singh claims the following in regard to the "arms-bearing" (that is, Khalsa) Sikh:

sasatar-dhari singh ran vich pith devai nahun / jitai jas pavai marui surapur pavai [63]

The Singh who bears arms must never show his back in battle [because] if he is victorious [on the field] he earns glory and if he is killed he goes to heaven [surapur, the abode of the gods].

Finally, Sukha Singh, in his account of the evacuation of Anandpur Sahib and the Battle of Chamkaur, treads upon this same hallowed ground, perhaps also alluding in the process to the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur mentioned in the Bachitar Natak:

ghataka dig yau ran ko kar kai /sur lok gayo ran mai mar kai [64]

[They] broke the earthen pitchers [of their bodies] on the field of battle. The gods in paradise sang the praises [of these Sikh warriors who] died on the battle field [as true Singhs].

The cause for which these Khalsa Sikhs gave their lives and achieved martyrdom is one which first appears in the Bachitar Natak and one that was very well understood by the authors of the gur-bilas literature: the protection of the Khalsa Panth and the defense of righteousness (dharam). For the many Sikh listeners or this period this cause was sufficiently familiar as to be taken for granted.

With such examples at hand, one could ask whether it is possible that Guru Arjan finds no mention in the texts of the period because his death did not occur on the battlefield. Was martyrdom therefore understood only as death in righteous war? This is certainly a possibility in the light of the overwhelming gur-bilas and rahit-nama evidence, but it seems unlikely when we recall that Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom is mentioned in every eighteenth-century Sikh text, apart from the janam-sakhi literature. [65] Why this execution is mentioned and praised as martyrdom while the fifth Guru's is not may have to do with a number of factors.

The first and the most obvious may be that for the earliest gur-bilas authors the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur was of recent memory, while that of Guru Arjan was not. Certainly the Sikh authors whose texts are a part of the Dasam Granth, as well as Sainapati and Chaupa Singh Chhibbar, were associated with Guru Tegh Bahadur's famous son and some of these Sikhs, moreover, may well have interpreted the death of the ninth Guru as the reason behind the creation of the Khalsa, the order to which we may assume many of these authors belonged. [66] Later tradition clearly assumes as much, going so far as to append the surname Singh to Bhai Nand Lal Goya, the famous Persian poet of Guru Gobind Singh's court.

Also, a very important factor in the popularity of the ninth Guru's martyrdom is that his execution finds mention in a text that was commonly attributed to the tenth Sikh Guru. A certain degree of sanctity would have been thus associated with the text and its contents, which probably accounts for the fact that the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur is sometimes lifted word-for-word from the Bachitar Natak in later gur-bilas and rahit-nama texts. [67] Indeed, Ratan Singh Jaggi claims that in the eighteenth century the Bachitar Natak was synonymous with the Dasam Granth. [68] Late-eighteenth-century European accounts, furthermore, tell us clearly that the Dasam Granth in this period was as revered as the Adi Granth, sharing with the latter the status of Guru of the Sikhs. [69] By the middle of the eighteenth century it is clear that this account had become a permanent memorial to the ninth Guru's death and sacrifice.

There is, of course, nothing dealing with the death of Guru Arjan that resembles the Bachitar Natak account of the ninth Guru's death. May one therefore assume that Sikh authors of the early eighteenth century were unaware of the fifth Master's demise? This is not possible. Indeed there can be no doubt that the gur-bilas authors of the early eighteenth century knew of the death of Guru Arjan at the hands of the Mughals, since it is highly unlikely that the observations recorded by the author of the Dabistan in the mid-seventeenth century would have been forgotten in the eighteenth. Yet it is not present in their accounts, which is all the more surprising since we have seen that eighteenth-century understandings of martyrdom could absorb contemporary interpretations of Guru Arjan's death. The only possibility left in this case is to speculate that for some reason (perhaps, again, the length of time which had elapsed since 1606) the gurbilas authors of the eighteenth century did not interpret Guru Arjan's death the way it is commonly interpreted today. And the reason for this may have to do with the nature of martyrology in general.

As many of us know full well, martyrs are in large part the creations of martyrologists, as there would be no story of righteous struggle and victory through death without a survivor to tell it. [70] A particular death must not only be known to the martyrologist and affect him personally but must also reflect or be made to reflect in part the fundamental values of the society in which the story is narrated. It is this which determines the martyrologist's success. The purpose of a martyrology then is not simply to edify listeners, but to engender within them a zeal for the cause for which the martyr died. It is this ability to transform a death into a sacrifice for a cause which plays the crucial role in the "creation" of a martyr. To paraphrase a well-worn Augustinian dictum: martyrdom depends not upon the fact or the manner of one's death, but rather on the cause for which the martyr died. This cause must, of course, be one with which society can identify. Martyrologies may therefore be understood as "treasu re houses of edifying exempla," [71]

It is clear that the earliest martyrologists of the Sikh Panth are the eighteenth-century authors of the gur-bilas literature. They themselves were cognizant of their role, inasmuch as they sometimes state in their hagiographies that their purpose in narrating the stories of Sikh courage, sacrifice, and death is to encourage and fortify the Khalsa Panth in its time of distress and persecution. In his Sri Gur-sohba, for example, Sainapati clearly implies as much:

kathai mukhi path kavi chhand sangram ke sunat anand so sabai sura [72]

When the poet sings of battle all the warriors are filled with joy.

The association between martyrologists and the gurbilas authors and the lack of a Guru Arjan narrative in this period make it seem obvious that for Sainapati, the author of the Bachitar Natak, and others the death of Guru Arjan did not warrant the status of martyrdom, inasmuch as the cause for which he died (if such a cause was stated) was one with which these authors and their audience could not identify. And thus Kesar Singh Chhibbar's interpretation of the fifth Guru's life and death was probably shared by the majority, it not all, of the Sikh writers of the early-to-mid (and even later) eighteenth century. The Guru was a victim of the Mughal state, the state against which the Khalsa Sikhs of Guru Gobind Singh had to exact revenge. The available contemporary evidence, as we have seen, also supports this claim. It is a possibility that in the chaotic period following the death of Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 these authors could see nothing edifying in such victimization and therefore chose to ignore the death of Guru Arjan altogether. This may provide a likely scenario, since in the twentieth century, Sikh martyrologists never write about the Sikh victims of Partition as martyrs nor do they claim this status for those killed during the anti-Sikh pogroms of November 1984 that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.

What is highly improbable is that Sikh writers of the eighteenth century chose not to write about Guru Arjan's death in order not to incense the Mughal authorities with whom responsibility for that execution lay. [73] Sikh history after the tenth Guru's death demonstrates that most Khalsa Sikhs were too busy fighting the Mughal to be concerned with the latter's good opinion. Support for this contention is the simple fact that Guru Tegh Bahadur's execution by the Mughals was an incident on which these writers did elaborate.

Ultimately, however, it is very difficult to say why there was no Sikh author of the eighteenth century to transform the death of Guru Arjan into a death for a cause, in the same way that the author of the Bachitar Natak had done for Guru Tegh Bahadur. All we can say with certainty is that this transformation did occur only in the more stable mid-nineteenth century during the period of the later Lahore Darbar. Perhaps this transformation was a way to underscore the increased importance of the scripture as the Guru during the period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and immediately afterward (rather than foucs upon the Panth or Sikh community as the eternal Guru, a theological doctrine not politically appropriate in a monarchical state) by noting the supreme sacrifice of the one Guru who had been, according to tradition, the principal author and compiler of the Guru Granth Sahib.

An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the Sikh Studies International Conference at the University of California at Santa Barbara on 4-5 December 1999. I would like to express my thanks to all those who participated and shared their understandings of Sikh martyrdom with me. I would also like to thank Ed Gerow and Jim Fitzgerald for their help on various parts of this essay. Finally, I express my gratitude to W.H. McLeod and Pashaura Singh, who went through the essay with very critical eyes.

(1.) Garja Singh, ed., Sahid-bilas (Bhai Mani Singh) krit Seva Singh (Ludhiana: Punjabi Sahit Academy, 1961), 54.

(2.) See, far example, M. A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), 3: 90-101.

(3.) Inder Singh Gill, ed., Kavi Sohan ji krir Sri Gur-bilas Patsahi 6 Tipaniam Samet (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, 1968), 90.

(4.) In the place of this tradition it has been recently claimed that the Adi Granth was formed gradually, and begun well before the time of Guru Arjan, in fact by the first Sikh Guru, Nanak, himself. See Gurinder Singh Mann, The Goindval Pothis: The Earliest Extant Source of the Sikh Canon (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 1996), 29-35, 45-50. This view is challenged by both B. S. Dhillon, Early Sikh Scriptural Tradition: Myth and Reality (Amritsar: Singh Bros., 1999), and Pritam Singh, Ahiyapur Vali Pothi, vol. 1 (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev Univ. Press, 1998).

(5.) Pashaura Singh, "The Text and Meaning of the Adi Granth" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Toronto, 1991), 64-66. Here, following various passages noted in Teja Singh's Sobaddrath Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the author describes nine vars of the Adi Granth in which "heroic" dhunis are found. A critique of this interpretation appears in Bachiter Singh, ed., Planned Attack on Aad Siri Guru Granth Sahib, (Chandigarh: Center for Sikh Studies, 1994).

(6.) Pashaura Singh's dissertation, to be published by Oxford University Press, underscores Guru Arjan's skill as compiler and author.

(7.) Louis E. Fenech, "Martyrdom and the Sikh Tradition," JAOS 117 (1997): 623-42.

(8.) The Persian text of the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri appears in Ganda Singh's Guru Arjan's Martyrdom (Re-interpreted) (Patiala, 1969), 10. For the Dabistan-i Mazahib see Kaykhusrau Isfandiyar, ed., Dabistan-i Mazahib, vol. 1 (Tehran: Kitab-khanah-'i Tahuri, 1362 H. / A.D. 1983), 207. Finally, an English translation of Xavier's letter is found in E. R. Hambye, "A Contemporary Jesuit Document on Guru Arjun Dev's Martyrdom," in Punjab Past and Present Essays in Honour of Dr Ganda Sing, ed. Harbans Singh et al. (Patiala: Punjabi Univ. Press, 1976), 113-18.

(9.) G. W. Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome, the Wiles Lectures Given at the Queen's University of Belfast (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), 5.

(10.) Although there are four appearances of the word sahid in eighteenth-century Sikh literature, the term first appears to describe a Sikh martyr specifically in sahid-bilas (Bhai Mani Singh) krit Seva Singh (ed. Garja Singh). For the controversial nature of this text, see Harnam Singh Shan, "Shahid Bilas (Bhai Mani Singh)," in The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, ed. Harbans Singh (Patiala: Punjabi Univ. Press, 1995), 4: 95--96.

(11.) Guru Nanak, Remkali dakhni 9:23; Adi Granth (hereafter, AG), 908.

(12.) Guru Arjan, Rag gauri 5:1; AG, 237.

(13.) Guru Amar Das, Siri ki var 11:1; AG, 86.

(14.) Each Sikh Guru whose compositions are included within the Adi Granth adopts the sobriquet Nanak.

(15.) W. H. McLeod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 162.

(16.) For the hero in Indian epic literature, see Ruth Cecily Katz, Arjuna in the Mahabharata: Where Krishna is, There is Victory (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1989), 29--31.

(17.) Guru Nanak, Japji 28; AG, 6.

(18.) Guru Nanak, Rag vadahansu alahaniam 2; AG, 579-80.

(19.) Guru Arjan, Rag ramkali ruti 8:2; AG, 929.

(20.) The tradition is noted by H. R. Gupta, History of the Sikhs, vol. 1: The Sikh Gurus 1469-1708, 2nd ed. (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1984), 151.

(21.) The same can be said of Father Xavier's letter, which was probably written based on secondhand information. One can only speculate that he may have understood Guru Arjan's death as that of a martyr.

(22.) M. A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion (90-100) claims that the fifth Guru refused both to expunge hymns from the newly prepared Adi Granth which were erroneously perceived to harm Muslim sensibilities and to include within the scripture hymns in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Macauliffe's account is taken in part from Santokh Singh's mid-nineteenth-century Gurpratap Suraj Granth. The fifth Guru's death may thus be interpreted as securing the sanctity of the scripture. See also Lakshman Singh, Sikh Martyrs (Ludhiana: Lahore Book Shop, 1989), 38-39.

(23.) Kaykhusrau Isfandiyar, ed., Dabistan-i Mazahib, 1: 207.

(24.) Vir Singh, ed., Varam Bhai Gurdas Satik (hereafter, BG), 9th ed., (New Delhi: Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, 1997), 386. The interpretation that this line recounts the Guru's sufferings under torture is espoused in Vir Singh's notes to the pauri.

(25.) Perhaps the most fanciful interpretation of this var appears in Hari Ram Gupta, A History of the Sikhs, 2nd ed. (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Pub., 1984), 1:153-54. Also see J. S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, The New Cambridge History of India, II.3 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), 63. Grewal, like Hari Ram Gupta, also notes, however, that Bhai Gurdas says nothing explicitly of the Guru's alleged "martyrdom."

(26.) For example, Guru Nanak's Rag asa 4:1:4; AG, 455: nisi kurank jaise nud suni sravani hiu divai man aisi priti kijai Love the Lord in the same way that the deer in the night hears the sound of the bell and gives his heart, o mind.

(27.) BG, 386. Images of these creatures appear throughout the Adi Granth. See, for example, Surinder Singh Kohli, A Critical Study of the Adi Granth (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976), 15-60.

(28.) For Sufi understandings of this common image, see Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1975), 62, 70, 142. In the Adi Granth a number of sabads convey this image. For example, Guru Ram Das' Rag ssa 58:3; AG, 367. For the fish and the rain bird, see Guru Ram Das, Var majh 3:4; AG, 95.

(29.) See Gurcharan Singh, ed., Adi Granth Sabad-anukramanika (Patiala: Punjabi Univ. Press, 1971), 2:1931 for the many occurrences of the term throughout the scripture.

(30.) Surjit Hans, A Reconstruction of Sikh History From Sikh Literature (Jalandhar: ABS, 1988), 137-55.

(31.) The passage is translated in Fenech, "Martyrdom and the Sikh Tradition," 633.

(32.) Ibid.

(33.) Bachitar Natak 5:11; Dasam Granth (DG), 53-54.

ramdas hari som ,nil gae / gurata det arjanamhi bhae jab arjan prabh lok sidhae / harigobind tih tham thaharae

[Guru] Ram Das merged with the divine, passing on the succession to Arjan. When Arjan departed this life for the divine abode, [the Guru] assumed the form of Hargobind.

(34.) The tradition of Chaupa Singh's martyrdom appears in Piar Singh Padam, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji de Darbari Ratan (Patiala: Punjabi Univ. Press, 1976), 75-77.

(35.) Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs (Delhi: Manohar, 1985), 49-50.

(36.) W. H. McLeod, ed., tr., The Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama (hereafter, CSRn) (Dunedin: Univ. of Otago Press, 1987), 107. The other possible reference appears at line 257 of the Gurmukhi Text, CSRn, 94.

(37.) My translation is largely adapted from that of McLeod, CSRn, 182.

(38.) Piar Singh Padam, ed., Rahit-name (Amritsar: Bhai Chatar Singh Jivan Singh, 1991), 113. McLeod, who also notes this reference (CSRn, 145, 238) states that the language and glosses of the manuscript copy of the Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama on which Piar Singh relied prove that it is a later recension. Cf. CSRn. 24.

(39.) R. S. Jaggi, ed., Kesar Singh Chhibbar da Bansavali-nama Da-sam Patsahiam ka, published in Parkh: Research Bulletin of Panjabi Language and Literature (hereafter, B-n), ed. S. S. Kohli (Chandigarh: Panjab University, 1972), 11. 34-36, p. 45. Another version of this text appears as Piar Singh Padam, ed., Bhai Kesar Singh Chhibbar krit Bansavali-nama Dasam Patsahiam ka (Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 1997).

(40.) CSRn, 94 (Gurmukhi).

(41) See McLeod's introduction to CSRn, 18.

(42.) Kesar Singh's debt to the Desam Granth is quite obvious and is noted by McLeond, CSRn, 47. According to Kesar Singh, Guru Arjan was previously the famous Arjan (Arjuna) of the Pandava dynasty of the Mahabharata and Prithi Chand the reincarnation of a rabbit (sasa; Skt. Sasa) that Arjan had inadvertently killed. The execution of the fifth Master is therefore understood as the rabbit's karmic retribution for his earlier, accidental death. (B-n, 11. 119-23, pp. 53-54.) J. S. Grewal, Sikh Ideology, Polity, and Social Order (Delhi: Manohar Press, 1996), 143, also points out Kesar Singh's reliance on the law of karma for such explanations.

(43.) B-n, pp. 46-55.

(44.) B-n, 5:107, p.52.

(45.) The term sasa here (Skt. Sasa) refers not to the rabbit mentioned earlier but rather to the phase of the moon on which appears a shape resembling a rabbit or hare. I am indebted to Hew McLeod for this clarification.

(46.) B-n, 5:139, 141, p.55:

urak bandh ke reti vichi badhe hoe hi ditte nadi rurhae

Finally [Guru Arjan] was tied and then put down upon the bank of the [Ravi]river...[in this] tied up [manner] he was thrown into the river.

(47.) B-n, 5:142, p. 55.

(48.) B-n, 10:53-175, pp. 104-16. Grewal also makes this point. See his Sikh Ideology, 143.

(49.) For example, B-n, pp. 56-73.

(50.) B-n, 10:104, p. 112:

mukate so Jo asade picche rahisani sikh / turakam karani hai panth nali khaher jagaha jagaha paravane likh / tinain vicho jo rakhanage sikhi soi mukate/ rakhanage dharamu sikhi da kar anek jatan

The mukate Sikhs are those who will stay behind after I have left. The Muslims will issue orders against the Panth and chase [its Sikhs in their attempts to crush it]. They who in these times of persecution uphold their Sikh allegiance shall be known as mukate, striving always to sustain their dharam as Sikhs.

The martyrological implications here are clear and obvious. The other Sikh groups to which he refers are the didari (attendant), maiki (rapacious), and the murid (loyal) Sikhs. This same classification appears at CSRn, 88, 172.

(51.) CSRn, 1. 203, p. 85. The translation is McLeod's.

(52.) The fifth Guru's "martyrdom" is sometimes presented as vicarious, benefiting others by providing them a model of patience. See M. A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, 3: 94. According to a very popular Sikh tradition, the ninth Guru offered himself to the Mughal authorities in order to put an end to the religious persecution to which they were subjecting the brahmins of Kashmir, specifically, and all Hindus, generally. The story notes that Guru Tegh Bahadur claimed that if the authorities could not convert him to Islam then they should cease from their attempts forcibly to convert others. That they failed is obvious. That the Guru is here presented as a scapegoat or surrogate victim on behalf of the community is a valid interpretation. The narrative of Guru Tegh Bahadur as the sacrificial, cultic victim first appears in a nineteenth-century bur-bilas text attributed to Koer Singh. See Shamsher Singh Ashok, ed., Gurbilas Patsahi 10 krit Kuir Singh (Patiala: Punjabi Univ. Press, 968), 48-50.

(53.) The Dasam Granth texts which I have in mind, along with the Bachitar Natak, are the Chaubis Autar and the Chandi Charitr, respectively. Sainapati's work appears in Ganda Singh, ed., Kavi Sainapati Rachit Sri Gur-sobhii (hereafter, Sri c;ursobhii) (Patiala: Punjabi Univ. Press, 1988). Sukha Singh's text may be found in Gursharan Kaur Jaggi, ed., Gur-bilis Patsahi 10 Bhiii Sukkhii Siiigh (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, 1989).

(54.) Vir Singh, ed., Prachin Panth Prakas, 5th ed. (Delhi: Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, 1982), 433. See also the nineteenth-century gur-bilas account found in I. S. Gill, ed., Gur-bilas Patsahi 6, 138--41.

(55.) Vir Singh, ed., Kavi Churamani Bhai Santokh Singh krit Sri Gur-pratap Suraj Granth (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, 1990), 7: 2373--77.

(56.) Bachitar Natak 8:23; DG, 61. This passage is reproduced in Kesar Singh Chhibbar's B-n 10:569, p. 152.

(57.) Bachitar Natak 8:26; DG, 61.

(58.) Chandi Charitr 231; DG, 99.

(59.) Krisanavatar 2489; DG, 570. There is another interesting line, which also deals with martyrdom, that appears twice in the Dasam Granth: Bachitar Natak 5:14 (DG, 54), which claims that Guru Tegh Bahadur sisu dia paru siraru na dia "gave up his head but did not forfeit his honor," is also found in the introduction to the Chaubis Autar: sis diyo un sirar na dina "[Those who have accepted the sovereignty of the Lord] lose their heads but not their resolve." Chaubis Autar 26; DG, 157.

(60.) For the controversy regarding the actual date of Sri Gursobha, see Ganda Singh's introduction to Sri Gur-sobha, 4-6, and W. H. McLeod, Who is a Sikh? The Problem of Sikh Identity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 35. My own inclination, based on the internal evidence of Sri Gur-sobha itself, is to take the earlier date of s. 1768 (A.D. 1711) as the date of the text's completion.

(61.) I have examined the relevant passages of Sri Gur-sobha elsewhere. See Fenech, "Martyrdom and the Sikh Tradition," 635-36.

(62.) B-n 10:567, p. 151.

(63.) CSRn, 84. My translation is largely based on McLeod's.

(64.) G. K. Jaggi, ed., Gur-bilas Patsahi 10 Bhai Sukkha Singh, 312. Amongst Sikhs the body is still often referred to as an "earthen pitcher" that will inevitably decay.

(65.) There is, however, a very brief reference to Guru Tegh Bahadur and perhaps to the formation of the Khalsa in the B40 janam-sakhi. See W. H. McLeod, ed., tr., The B40 Janam-Sakhi (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev Univ. Press, 1980), 123-24.

(66.) CSRn, 1. 166, p. 168, for example.

(67.) For cxample, Sri Gur-sobha 1:17, p. 65; CSRn, 1. 161, pp. 80, 168; and B-n 9:147, p. 95.

(68.) As noted in Surjit Hans, A Reconstruction, 229.

(69.) See, for example, the account of Charles Wilkins, in Ganda Singh, ed., Early European Accounts of the Sikhs and History of Origin and Progress of the Sikhs (New Delhi: Today & Tomorrow's Print & Publishers, 1974).

(70.) A wonderful example of the role of the martyrologist in creating the martyr appears in Claire Cross's "An Elizabethan Martyrologist and His Martyr: John Mush and Margaret Clitherow," in Martyrs and Martyrologies, ed. Diana Wood (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 271-81.

(71.) See David Loades' introduction to Martyrs and Martyrologies, xvii.

(72.) Sri Gur-sobha 13:10, p. 133. A line with similar intent appears in Krisanavatar 2491; DG, 570.

(73.) Hari Ram Gupta claims that Bhai Gurdas did not describe the details of Guru Arjan's "martyrdom" for just this reason (H. R. Gupta, History of the Sikhs, 1: 153). Although there is, of course, no evidence to substantiate this, the interpretation may be valid nevertheless. Surely one of the central concerns of Bhai Gurdas, in the light of the execution of the fifth Guru, was the survival of the Sikh Panth. will strive to be most comprehensive directory of Historical Gurudwaras and Non Historical Gurudwaras around the world. The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras. brings to you a unique and comprehensive approach to explore and experience the word of God. It has the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Amrit Kirtan Gutka, Bhai Gurdaas Vaaran, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib and Kabit Bhai Gurdas . You can explore these scriptures page by page, by chapter index or search for a keyword. The Reference section includes Mahankosh, Guru Granth Kosh,and exegesis like Faridkot Teeka, Guru Granth Darpan and lot more.
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