During the rein of Guru Arjan, crowds were converted to Sikhism in Punjab and in various other parts of India and even in the neighboring countries. It is said that the hilly Rajas of Kulu, Suket, Haripur and Chamba visited the Guru and became his followers as did the Raja of Mandi. Guru’s fame and influence became widely spread.
At that time Chandu Lal was Emperor Akbar’s Diwan or financial advisor. He was a Khatri by caste and was originally an inhabitant of Rohela village in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. His official duties necessitated him to reside in Delhi. He had a young daughter of extreme beauty. Her mother, one day, said to her father,”Our daughter is growing to maturity. We should search for a husband for her.” Chandu Lal, therefore, sent his family priest and barber in search for a suitable match for his daughter. The priest and the barber searched every city in the Punjab but could not find a satisfactory match. One day again Chandu’s wife insisted that they should continue their efforts. So the priest and the barber were again despatched for the purpose. They searched and searched and when they reached Lahore, they heard about the Guru’s young son, Har Gobind. They went to Amritsar and found Har Gobind as the most descent match for the young girl. They came back and reported to Chandu accordingly. They gave their analysis on the excellence of Har Gobind and the enormous respect that his father was commanding in the city of Amritsar. Chandu was not pleased hearing praises of the Guru, so he asked the priest and the barber,”Do you think him equal to me? Guru’s caste is inferior to me. You desire to put the ornamental tile of top storey into a gutter! Where am I, the imperial finance minister; and where is the Guru, though he may be an object of veneration to his followers?”
Guru Arjan – the first martyr.
The atmosphere was highly charged. Jahangir was hot with rage, so were Sulhi Khan and Sulbi Khan. Prithi Chand burning with jealousy. All these prompted Jahangir to torture Guru Arjan to the extreme. He was made to sit on a hot plate with hot burning sand being poured on him. The Guru breathed his last in 1606 Ad by going to the River Ravi for a dip and eventually disappearing.
After the husband and wife had argued the whole night over the matter, it was decided that Sada Kaur (their daughter) should be given in marriage to Har Gobind. The marriage presents were, therefore, dispatched to Amritsar. It came to the ears of the Sikhs of Delhi that Chandu had used derogatory expressions for the Guru. They sent a messenger with a letter explaining Chandu’s utterances and prayed to the Guru to reject his alliance. The Sikhs of Delhi as well as of Amritsar prayed that the alliance of a haughty head like Chandu should not be accepted. The Guru was obliged to accept the advice of his Sikhs and so with utmost humility he told the matchmakers,”I am contented with my humble lot and desire not an alliance with the great. An ornamental tile should not be put in a gutter.”
While the matchmakers were still remonstrating, a Sikh, Narain Das, a grandson of Bhai Paro (a famous Sikh of Guru Amar Das) stood in the congregation and beseeched the Guru,”O king, I am the dust of thy lotus feet. I have a daughter whom my wife and I have vowed to offer to thy son. If you make her the slave of thy feet, I shall be fortunate. I am a poor unhonored Sikh and thou art the honor of the unhonored.” The uru replied,”If you have love in your heart, then your proposal is acceptable to me.” Narain Das at once went and purchased the marriage presents and betrothal ceremony was performed. Upon this another Sikh, Hari Chand stood up and appealed,”O true king, I have vowed to give my daughter to thy son. If my petition please thee, I will give my daughter as a servant to Har Gobind.” The Guru though unwilling at first to accept a second wife for his son, felt that he could not reject the offer of a faithful Sikh.
All this happened in the presence of Chandu’s matchmakers who went back to Delhi and disappointed their master with sad news. Chandu was very much incensed and he wrote a letter to the Guru apologizing for his thoughtless expressions. He pleaded with the Guru that if he accepted his alliance, he would give large dowry to his daughter and he would have many favors conferred on him (Guru) by the Emperor. In the end he wrote that he was already on bad terms with his brother Prithi Chand and if he fell out with him too, it might ignite a blazing fire which would be difficult to extinguish.
He despatched the letter with the priest. The Guru having read it, stated,”It is the pride that ruins men. Man suffers for his acts. They whom the Creator joineth, are united and they whom men joineth, are not. It is the Guru’s rule to comply with the wishes of his Sikhs. Their words are immutable. As for his threats, I have no fear because God is the guardian of all.” The priest returned with this message. This set the stage for Chandu’s evil designs against the Guru.
The Emperor Akbar died soon after and was succeeded by his son Jahangir. Akbar had nominated his grandson Khusro in supersession of his son. Khusro claimed Punjab and Afghanistan which his father, Jahangir, was unwilling to concede to him. Jahangir ordered Khusro’s arrest but the latter escaped and went towards Afghanistan. On his way he visited the Guru at Tarn Taran and told him that he was unfriended, needy, poor and had no travelling expenses. So he begged the Guru for pecuniary assistance.
Khusro had previously visited the Guru accompanying his grandfather Akbar and was, therefore, very well known to him. Secondly in Guru’s house everybody- friend or foe, king or pauper, is treated equally. The Guru knew what was coming, but seeing the plight of the prince, he gave Khusro financial help. Khusro was, however, seized while crossing Jehlum, by the imperial forces and was brought in chains to his father.
Prithia continued to retain the assistance and co-operation of Sulhi Khan against the Guru. On the pretext of collecting revenue in the Punjab, Sulhi Khan obtained leave from the Emperor. On his way he visited Prithia
at his village Kotha where they concocted plans for the Guru’s destruction. In the meantime, however, Prithia took Sulhi Khan to show his brick-kilns, where Sulhi Khan met with his accidental death by his sudden fall in the live brick-kiln.
Prithia was very much saddened at the death of his ally in evil. In those circumstances Chandu came to his rescue and filled the gap. Chandu wrote to Prithia to use his influence to bring his daughter’s alliance with Har Gobind. Prithia was ready to assist Chandu in his nefarious designs against the Guru. He wrote back that the Guru who had deprived him of his right over Guruship, was already his enemy; and he would only be too happy to assist in meting him with adequate punishment. In his letter he begged Chandu to use his influence with the Emperor to bring the Guru to justice. So they both concocted a plan to induce the Emperor by some means to visit Punjab where they would have an opportunity to enter into some conspiracy against the Guru.
Chandu’s scheme was successful and in a short period of time the Emperor came to Punjab. He told the Emperor that Guru Arjan was acting as his rival in Punjab by entertaining thieves and exercising independent authority. Upon this the Emperor sent an order to the Guru through Sulabi Khan, the nephew of late Sulhi Khan, to abstain from such practices. On his journey to Amritsar, Sulabi Khan confronted with some Pathans and was killed. When Chandu heard the death of Sulabi Khan, he convinced the Emperor that ithad been done through the machinations of the Guru. He added that he had done many such misdeeds. For example the Guru had deprived his elder brother Prithi Chand of his rights over Guruship and had also endeavored to deprive Hindus and Muslims of their religions. The Emperor immediately sent for Prithia who was overjoyed with the invitation. He made preparations to go to the Emperor but after the dinner he got a cramp in his stomach and died the same night.
Meharban, son of Prithia, wasted no time after the death of his father in informing Chandu who in turn informed the Emperor that the Guru had blessed Khusro and had promised that he would become the Emperor. The Emperor was also notified that the Pundits and the Qazis were enraged at the compilation of Adi Granth which blasphemed the worship rules of the Hindus and the prayer and fasting of the Muslims. By such accusations, Chandu induced the Emperor to summon Guru Arjan.
Emperor Jahangir writes in his autobiography:
“In Goindwal, which is on the river Biyah (Beas), there was a Hindu named Arjan, in the garments of sainthood and sanctity so much so, that he had captured many of the simple- hearted of the Hindus and even the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners, and they had loudly sounded the drum of his holiness. They called him Guru and from all sides stupid people crowded to worship and manifest complete faith in him. For three or four generations (of spiritual successors) they kept this shop warm. Many times it occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or to bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam.
At last, when Khusro passed along this road, this insignificant fellow proposed to wait upon him. Khusro appened to halt at the place where he was, and he came out and did homage to him. Hebehaved to Khusro in certain pecial ways, and made on his forehead a finger-mark of saffron which the Indians call Qashqa and is considered propitious. When this came to my ears and I fully knew his heresies, I ordered that he should be brought into my presence and having handed over his houses, dwelling places, and children to Murtaza Khan (Sheikh Farid Bukhari) and having confiscated his property I ordered that he should be put to death with tortures.”
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan by artist G.S.Sohan Singh
The following events led to the Guru’s summons by the Emperor resulting in martyrdom:
To begin with, it was his elder brother, Prithi Chand who devoted his whole life to harm the Guru in every possible way. Secondly Chandu’s animosity over his daughter’s non-alliance with the Guru’s son, is considered the main fuel. These men with jealousies in their hearts, concocted the real story of Khusro to rouse the ire of Emperor Jahangir which added fuel to the blazing fire. Along with these circumstances Guru’s increasing influence to convert crowds of Hindus and Muslims, created a stir in the minds of the Pundits (Brahmans) and the Qazis (Muslim priests). The compilation of Adi Granth was considered a serious blow to other religions. Through all these circumstances Guru Arjan fell a victim to the bigotry and inhumanity of the Mohammadan Emperor.
Before his departure to Lahore, the Guru appointed his son, Har Gobind as his successor and gave suitable instructions. He took five Sikhs, Bhai Bidhi Chand, Bhai Langaha, Bhai Piara, Bhai Jetha, and Bhai Pirana, with him. Some writers say that Emperor Jahangir had gone to Kashmir before the arrival of the Guru in Lahore. The Emperor Jahangir addressed the Guru,”Thou art a saint, a great teacher, and a holy man; You look on all, rich and poor, alike. It was therefore, not proper for you to give money to my enemy Khusro.” The Guru replied,”I regard all people, whether Hindu or Musalman, rich or poor, friend or foe, as equals; and it is on this account that I gave your son some money for his journey, and not because he was in opposition to you. If I had not assisted him in his forlorn condition, and so shown some regard for the kindness of thy father, Emperor Akbar to myself, all men would have despised me for my heartlessness and ingratitude, or they would have said that I was afraid of you. This would have been unworthy of a follower of Guru Nanak.”
The Guru’s reply did not sooth Jahangir’s feelings and he ordered him to pay two lakhs of rupees (two hundred thousand rupees), and also to erase the hymns in his Granth which were opposed to the Hindu and Muslim religions. The Guru replied, “Whatever money I have is for the poor, the friendless and the stranger. If you ask for money, you may take whatever I have; but if you ask for it by way of fine I shall not give you even a penny, because a fine is imposed on the wicked worldly persons and not on priests and saints. As regarding the erasure of hymns in the Adi Granth, I cannot erase or alter an iota. I am a worshipper of the Immortal God. There is no monarch save Him; and what He revealed to the Gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Ram Das, and afterwards to myself, is written in the holy Granth. The hymns contained in the Adi Granth are not disrespectful to any Hindu incarnation or any Mohammadan prophet. It is certainly stated that prophets, priests, and incarnations are the handiwork of the Immortal God, Whose limit none can find. My main object is to spread the truth and the destruction of falsehood; and if, in pursuance to this objective, this perishable body is to depart, I shall account it great good fortune.”
The Emperor left and the Guru was placed under the surveillance of Chandu. Some writers say that Guru Arjan’s execution was nothing except usual punishment of revenue defaulter. It seems that these writers are totally ignorant of Sikh tradition. When the Sikhs of Lahore came to know about the fine of two lakhs of rupees, they decided to raise the money to discharge the Guru’s obligation of fine. The Guru issued a stern warning to his Sikhs that whosoever contributed to pay the fine imposed on him, would not be his Sikh. It was a matter of principle as mentioned in the Guru’s reply above, and not a matter of two lakhs of rupees which could have been collected in twinkling of an eye. Fines are for thieves, robbers, slanderers and the wicked. Men devoted to religion did not belong to that category. It is, therefore, baseless to say that Guru’s execution was usual punishment of revenue defaulter. The Qazis and Brahmans offered alternatives to the Guru to exchange death for expunging the alleged objectionable passages in Adi Granth and inserting the praises of Mohammad and of the Hindu deities. The Guru did not budge from his position.
Guru Arjan was made to sit on the red hot iron pan and burning sand was poured over his bare body. He was seated in red-hot caldron, and was bathed in boiling water. Guru’s body was burning and was full of blisters.
His friend and devotee, Mian Mir, a Muslim saint, rushed to see him. When Mian Mir saw the ghastly scene, he cried out and said,”O Master! I cannot bear to see these horrors inflicted on thee. If you permit me, I would demolish this tyrant rule (Mian Mir is said to have possessed supernatural powers at that time).” The Guru smiled and asked Mian Mir to look towards the skies. It is said that Mian Mir saw Angels begging the Guru’s permission to destroy the wicked and the proud.
The Guru addressed Mian Mir,”Mian Mir, you are perturbed too soon. This is the Will of my Master (God), and I cheerfully submit and surrender to His Sweet Will.” The Guru repeated and exemplified in action the meaning of this verse:
“Tera kia meetha lagei
Har Nam padarath Nanak mangei.”
(Asa Mohalla 5, p-394)
‘Sweet be Thy Will, my Lord
Nanak beseecheth the gift of Nam.’
(Translation of the above)
The Guru bore all this torture with equanimity and never uttered a sigh or a groan.
The Guru was unruffled!
The Guru remained calm and unperturbed like a sea!
The Guru was in Absolute Bliss!
This was the wonder of the Lord- an unparallel example
in the history of mankind.
Mian Mir asked, why was he enduring the suffering at the hands of his vile sinners when he ossesseth superpowers? The Guru replied,”I bear all this torture to set an example to the Teachers of True Name, that they may not lose patience or rail at God in affliction. The true test of faith is the hour of misery. Without examples to guide them, ordinary persons’ minds quail in the midst of suffering.” Upon this Mian Mir departed commending the Guru’s fortitude and singing his praises.
The Guru was again addressed to comply with the demands of his enemies. When he was threatened with further torture, he replied,”O fools! I shall never fear any torture. This is all according to God’s Will, any torture wherefore affordeth my pleasure.” He is said to have uttered this Sabad:
“The egg of superstition hath burst; the mind is illumined;
The Guru hath cut the fetters off the feet and freed the captive.
My transmigration is at an end.
The heated caldron hath become cold; the Guru hath given the cooling Name.
Since the holy man hath been with me, Death’s myrmidons,
who lay in wait for me, have left me.
I have been released from him who restrained me; what shall the judge do to me now?
The load of karma is removed; I am freed therefrom.
From the sea I have reached the shore; the Guru hath done me this favor.
True is my place, true my seat, and truth I have made my special object.
Truth is the capital; truth the stock-in-trade which Nanak hath put into his house.”
(Maru Mohalla 5, p-1002)
Chandu thought to suffocate him in a fresh cowhide, in which he was to be sewn up. Instead the Guru asked for a bath in Ravi river which flowed embracing the walls of Lahore city. Chandu revelled at the thought that the Guru’s body full of blisters, would undergo greater pain when dipped in cold water and hepermitted him to bathe in the river. The soldiers were sent to escort the Guru. The Master’s disciples saw him leaving. He looked at them still forbidding any action. He said,”Such is the Will of my God, submit tothe Divine Will, move not, stand calm against ll woes.”
Crowds watched the Master standing in water and having a dip. Lo! The light blended with Light and the body was found nowhere. Hail to the Master! Thou art Wonderful- Martyr, the greatest. Thou art the Greatest!
In Sikhism there is the same emphasis on Raza also called Bhana (God’s Will) as there is on renunciation in
ascetic cults and creeds. It is a state of mind which understands clearly the Divine Will. The doctrine of Bhana is the acceptance of the Will of God which is the core of Sikh faith. An enlightened mind lives according to inner dictates of His Hukam (order). It is a dedicated submission and infinite patience to accept His Will. Guru Arjan sowed the seed of martyrdom which largely flourished after him and became the heritage of the Sikhs.
To justify and substantiate that prophets and saints can conquer death and suffering, two Sikh Gurus and countless Sikhs have faced martyrdom. They did so to show to the world their belief in the eternity of their spirit and the fearlessness they acquired in the love of God. It is a lesson to the world that true devotion to God transcends the sorrow of life. The Master is not indifferent to the values and to the suffering of the virtuous at the hands of the wicked. To save and defend is His Characteristic (Birdh). He cares for devotion of His devotees and guards His prophets and saints from misery unless He wills and desires that their agonizing experience and painful martyrdom should serve higher purpose.
This was the fourth day of the light half of the month of Jeth, Sambat 1663 (May 30, 1606 A.D.).
FN-1: Work was not interfered with from any direction.
FN-2: Ramdas may also mean here God’s servant.
FN-3: John Clark Archer writes in his book, ‘The Sikhs’ that Har Gobind was not a real son of Guru Arjan but he was an adopted son. As we see in the above narrated Sabad, the Guru thanked God for His blessing over the birth of his son. Also the entire Sikh world believes that Guru Har Gobind was Guru Arjan’s son. God knows what was Archer’s source of such a misleading information. He should have shown some sense of responsibility while writing on such a sensitive subject. There are many such serious irregularities in his book and we take a very serious note of them.
FN-4: Means Guru Granth Sahib.
FN-5: It was customary in those days to send the family priest and the family barber to find suitable match.
FN-6: The Gurus were held in such high esteem that religious people frequently thought it their duty to vow to them their lives, their children, and their property. Several Sikhs used to register oaths on the birth of their daughters that they would only bestow them on the Guru or his relations. None would marry them except those to whom they were vowed. The Guru, therefore, felt bound to meet the wishes and vows of his Sikhs.
FN-7: The Gurus were held in such high esteem that religious people frequently thought it their duty to vow to them their lives, their children, and their property. Several Sikhs used to register oaths on the birth of their daughters that they would only bestow them on the Guru or his relations. None would marry them except those to whom they were vowed. The Guru, therefore, felt bound to meet the wishes and vows of his Sikhs.
FN-8: As we will see later on, Jahangir wrote that the Guru made a tilak (patch) of saffron on Khusro’s forehead which implied that the Guru had blessed Khusro with Emperorship. This was not true. It seems that it was a concocted story of Guru’s enemies to excite Jahangir against him.