The Holy Gurus and their Commandments
Emerging from his great self-imposed seclusion, Guru Tegh Bahadur faced a great task Hostile forces, spiritual and temporal, were still to be united around him. In deep meditation over the years, he had realised that the time had come to wage an intensive struggle to fight the high-handedness of the rulers.
The Mughal empire had reached a critical point in its destiny. Aurangzeb, who had come to power by adopting the most heartless methods for occupying the ruler’s throne, was pronouncedly fanatical. He had gotten his elder brother Dara Shikoh murdered. Murad, his younger brother, had met the same fate. His third brother, Shuja, escaped to Arakan, where he died in extreme poverty. A man who had imprisoned his father and who had the blood of his brothers on his hands could not be expected to be liberal with his non-Muslim subjects.
The task before the ninth Guru was that of awakening self-confidence in the people. He had decided that the suppressed subjects, whether they were Hindus or Muslims, were to be united in terms of their religious beliefs and then inspired to fight the forces of tyranny. Guru Tegh Bahadur preached that the aim of Sikhism was to instill in men the consciousness of the presence of the one Supreme Lord within themselves, a presence that must inspire the soul. By inspiring the individual that he was to be fearless and sovereign, a burning desire to throw off the tyrannical yoke was sought to be promoted.
Aurangzeb, on the other hand, was actuated by a strong anti-Hindu bias. He reimposed the tax on non-Muslims known as "jezia" which was a humiliating impost. The prevailing atmosphere demanded the kindling of a passionate faith that God was equally present in every individual whether he was Muslim or Hindu. The people were to be made aware that there was no justification for the Mughals to consider themselves a superior race designed to continue their dominance over India.
To propagate this idea the Guru travelled extensively over several parts of the country. By attending his spiritual assemblies in different places and by coming into contact with him, vast regions were to be inspired with a new passion for freedom. Guru Tegh Bahadur undertook long tours. His mother Mata Nanki and his wife Mata Gujari accompanied him.
In 1665 Guru Tegh Bahadur decided to go to distant places. In all places, he was able to establish seats from which missionary and temporal power could operate even in his absence. He had taken the decision that he should not travel more than a few miles every day so that he could hold two assemblies daily.
After visiting many centres of religious importance, the Ninth Master reached a great religious and commercial centre in the East of India, Patna. Patna has been famous for many centuries and is at present the capital of Bihar. The city is associated with Lord Buddha. Guru Nanak Dev visited it. Guru Tegh Bahadur camped at Patna and established his residence there along with his mother and wife, running the community kitchen, as was customary in the Guru’s household.
In August 1666, the ninth Guru along with some of the devotees set out for Bengal and Assam. In October of that year, he was in Dacca. It was some time later at that place that he received the great tidings of the birth of his son, the future Guru Gobind Singh, at Patna. He was told that the birth had taken place on the 22nd of December, 1666. A special messenger had reached him with the news. There was great rejoicing. Huge quantities of food and clothes were distributed. Special prayers were held. Guru Tegh Bahadur, however, continued his onward journey. He proceeded to Assam and spent a good deal of time in preaching to the people there. He spread the message of Guru Nanak amongst the people of Assam.
When he came back to Patna, he was overjoyed to find that his son had all the prophetic qualities for initiating an absolutely significant new way of life. He saw that a harbinger of fresh hope had come to India. The Indian people were bound to be stirred by him into the consciousness of their age-old greatness. The new child appeared to the father to embody the hope for the future of the Indian people.
A Muslim holy man wanted to discover for himself as to whether the child, the future Guru, would lean more towards the Muslims or to the Hindus. Two earthen cups full of milk are stated to have been placed before the young child. Immediately one of the hands was placed by the child on one of the earthen cups and, simultaneously, the other hand was placed on the other cup. He, however, indicated that another similar cup full of milk be placed before him. When the third cup was brought, then lifting both of his hands, he placed them on that cup. It was a unique declaration by him that at the appropriate time, he would finalise and create the religion which in its new shape and content would prevail as Sikhism. The Muslim divine was greatly impressed.
Guru Gobind Singh’s birth took place at a time when spiritual and temporal problems of vast consequence faced the country. His future actions justified the faith which his birth inspired.
In Bachittar Natak, a biographical account, the future Guru recounted the story of his life as also of certain pre-natal events. Therein he has stated:
From the high peaks of Hemkunt where he had spent his previous life in deep meditation, the greatest of the Yogis had come to take birth at Patna as the son of the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur.
It may be observed here that the injunctions issued to the Khalsa when the shape and culture prescribed for the individual were conferred on each of the five beloved ones (the Panj Piaras) were such as were ordained for those especially devoted to God’s mission. Guru Gobind Singh’s advent took place in circumstances which called for the greatness of a unique kind in one who was to show the light to the world.
At the time of his birth and ever after, he always remained unique. His eyes possessed a superhuman magnetism to spread confidence and courage. Whoever saw him felt the pull of attraction. As a child he could know the desires residing in the minds of those who came in contact with him. He gathered around himself small children. He would divide his companions into two groups and then child-combats started. As a child, he played a number of pranks that enlivened those around him. It was a happy idyllic childhood on the bank of the holy Ganga.
He was to impart to his companions the confidence with which they could disregard the rulers. When one of the chief officers of the ruling race was passing by, he told his companions that they should turn their backs upon him and should not salute him.
When asked as to why he did not show regard to the rulers of the day, he observed that he feared God and none else. It was his grandmother who had prophesied that like his grandfather, the child would grow into a great holy Master, enjoying and exercising both temporal and spiritual powers. She predicted that he would trample down and overthrow those who were tyrannizing over the people.
He was loved by all. Whenever he went with his playmates to the Ganga, he would start splashing water so as to wake-up the pilgrims half-asleep in meditation and would then tell them that instead of any other deities, God alone was to be worshipped.
It would be appropriate to narrate that at Patna, Pandit Shiv Dutt was a personage of high religious status. He was all the while thirsting for realising God. His mind was constantly seeking true peace. Finding Pandit Shiv Dutt in deep meditation, the child Gobind Rai, one day in his sweet voice, whispered in his ears ‘Panditji, wake up, Panditji’. It is stated that Pandit Shiv Dutt joyfully opened his eyes and on seeing the child he was saturated with bliss. The Pandit later on pronounced that he had not found through meditation over many years what was imparted to him by the mere glimpse of the divine child. After that, ever-abiding love persisted between the two.
Raja Fateh Chand Maini and his wife longed to have a son. They beseeched Pandit Shiv Dutt to bless them. The Rani was startled, one day, when the young Gobind Rai suddenly sat on her lap, threw his arms around her neck and pronounced ‘Dear mother, look, the child has come’. An ever-thriving love prospered thereafter.
Two Muslim noblemen, Rahim Bakhsh and Karim Bakhsh, became his devotees. They were so impressed that they gifted their garden to the family. Some of the area comprised in that garden is a part of the shrine known as ‘Takht Shri Patna Sahib’ at Patna.
The time came when the family decided to leave for Anandpur Sahib, which was the ninth Guru’s seat. Many devotees accompanied the family for some distance. When they reached Danapur, a strange spectacle was observed. An old woman who had been praying to God for many years stopped the entourage. She stated that she had received a message from her inner self that she was to behold the light of God enshrined in physical form. She had prepared some food. She offered it to the child Gobind Rai who even at that age in a firm voice told her that not he, but God alone, was to be prayed to, and that God alone could answer her prayers.
It is stated that when they reached Lakhnaur, a Muslim sage, Sayyed Bheekhan Shah, bowed before him seven times. The followers of Bheekhan Shah were surprised beyond measure. The Sayyed explained to them that he had seen with his spiritual eyes the future of the child. He there and then declared that the divine person to whom he had paid homage was to establish a new religion and to be a guide to mankind.
Another Pir, Arif Din, accompanied by his followers once saw the child. He was chained to the spot. He fell into a reverie. Coming out of the trance, he bowed before the child Gobind Rai. His Muslim followers were infuriated. The Pir, with a beaming face, affirmed that he had recognised supreme divinity in the child and that bowing before the child was bowing before the gracious divinity enshrined in him.
After some days, the entourage proceeded towards Anandpur Sahib which had been founded by the ninth Guru on land bought from the Raja of Kahlur. On the way, they stopped at Kiratpur, where the holy shrines of Baba Gurditta, Guru Hargobind and Guru Har Rai existed. The child seemed to be aware of the historical significance of Kiratpur. It was with deep admiration that he moved along the route to Anandpur Sahib. Guru Tegh Bahadur fed thousands of people in his community kitchen on the day the entourage headed by his son arrived.
At Anandpur Sahib, the child Gobind Rai became immensely fond of listening to the hymns in the Granth Sahib. He learnt here Sanskrit and Persian. Persons of high merit were appointed to train him in horsemanship and the use of various arms. An epoch was to arrive when this great man was to challenge the Mughal empire. Destiny was planning to evolve an army devoted to the cause of freedom. Training in warfare became a daily feature of Gobind Rai’s life. An army was to be raised to give a mighty turn to the wheel of history.
A comprehensive appreciation of the history of prophetic personages calls for emphasising that the divinity enshrined in Gobind Rai was unique in its content and expression.
It was his inborn desire to become a warrior designed by God. He started preaching at an early age that ‘Sarab Loh’, i.e., pure steel was to be venerated and used in all situations. In course of time there came to be a sect of his followers who held in prayerful regard the swords and other weapons made of pure steel and took food prepared in utensils of steel. It may be added here that when at the age of thirty three the new Guru to be brought into being the Khalsa Panth, it was a large bowl made of steel in which sweet ‘Patashas’ (crystals of sugar) were stirred by a two edged sword, known as ‘Khanda’. The ‘Amrit’ (nectar) was prepared by the Guru while sitting in the heroic posture called ‘Bir assan’, stirring the water in the steel bowl containing crystals of sugar with the ‘khanda’ made of steel. He, while preparing the nectar, recited five compositions, some of them from the holy Granth Sahib. The tenth Guru, throughout his life, in divine grace performed distinct acts which showed his charismatic personality. The supreme Lord had charged him with mission to instill in the individual the avowed determination to do or die.
As the governor of Gujarat, Aurangzeb had committed an unforgivable act which caused mental torture to all the Indians who came to know about it. He got a cow slaughtered in the temple at Chintamani and then converted it into a mosque. Shahjehan had given back the building to the Hindus, but when Aurangzeb came into power, he started a campaign to uproot Hinduism. He was elated that he had demolished the temple standing at the top of the hill at Satara. After occupying the throne of Delhi in 1656 he issued the command that no new temples were to be constructed. As the years passed the iconoclastic zeal in the Mughal Emperor who called himself Alamgir (World Conqueror) crossed all bounds. After about ten years of his reign, a specific order was issued to all his subordinates to destroy all Hindu temples and centres of Hindu learning. The Muslim officers forming the net-work of his regime destroyed the Vishwanath temple at Benaras. A marble temple, built at Mathura at a huge cost by Raja Narsingh Deo, which came to be known as Dera Kesu Rai, was also destroyed in disregard to the feelings of Hindus. The lofty shining domes of that temple were torn to pieces. To perpetuate the wrong, the temple which had been destroyed was replaced by a large mosque. The deities were removed and buried under the earth. To add to the degradation, the steps leading to the mosque of Nawab Begum were built above the buried idols.
The Brahmins of Kashmir were fully aware of the zeal and determination of Aurangzeb. They knew that he had changed in his records the name of Mathura to lslamabad.
Sanctifying to all was Guru Tegh Bahadur’s presence. When the representatives of the Brahmins of Kashmir arrived, they were inspired with a new hope. The Tenth Guru to be was about nine years of age when the Brahmins narrated their tale of woe before the Ninth Master. They disclosed that they had obtained from the governor of Kashmir the time-limit of six months within which they were to take a decision as to whether they would accept Islam or face death. The Mughals knew that the Brahmins of Kashmir were greatly respected because of their learning. The Emperor regarded the temples in Kashmir as sprouting roots of Hinduism. He wanted to destroy them and thus strike a severe blow at Hinduism.
After hearing their woeful tale from the Brahmins, the Ninth Guru fell into deep meditation. After some time, the Guru opened his eyes. The illumination in his looks imparted fortitude to the visitors from Kashmir. The atmosphere was charged with confidence.
It is stated that the Ninth Guru told the Brahmins from Kashmir
Then Gobind Rai asked his father as to what would be the best possible way to meet the situation. The Ninth Master spontaneously observed that only if some high religious personage offered his own sacrifice, the tide would be turned. Turning to the gathering Guru Tegh Bahadur told them that by their firm refusal to accept conversion, the masses would be steeled in their resolve to adhere to their faith.
Gobind Rai smiled and spoke:
"Dear father, in this age, you are the holiest person.
None is more fit for the task then yourself."
Guru Tegh Bahadur, glowing with Divine Confidence at the words, blessed his son and declared that in course of time, the followers of the Sikh faith would imbibe such strength in body and mind that the down-trodden would be cured of the degenerating spell cast on them by centuries of oppressive rule. He asked the Brahmins from Kashmir to go to the Governor and tell him that not only the Brahmins in Kashmir but also the Hindus throughout India would embrace Islam if Guru Tegh Bahadur accepted conversion. Guru Tegh Bahadur and his son, as well as his family members including his devotees, were conscious of the consequences. Refusal to comply with the Emperor’s wish would mean death and suffering on a large scale. It is remarkable that the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur contained in Guru Granth Sahib express that he was throughout his life aware of the culminating point of personal destiny. He wanted everyone to recognise that God was always present with man. Man was to be fearless. No one was to bow to anyone using aggressive force. There was an eternal process going on, in consequence whereof all things were to become nonexistent at the appointed time. In one of the hymns, he taught mankind the eternal truth:
overwhelming web of superstitions and misgivings."
In one of his famous ‘slokas’ in Guru Granth Sahib, the Ninth Master says:
Full of heavenly bliss, Guru Tegh Bahadur began to meditate in greater solitude. Whenever he would address the gathering, it was known to all that he was going to perform the supreme sacrifice.
The sequence of events discloses that the decision taken by Guru Tegh Bahadur to save at all costs the individual right to freedom of worship was very momentous.
The Brahmins from Kashmir, in the first instance, contacted Zalim Khan, the then governor of Lahore. They gave to him in writing that if Guru Tegh Bahadur was to be successfully persuaded to embrace Islam, the people throughout the length and breadth of India would have no hesitation in being converted to that faith. The representation made by them was sent to the Emperor. The Emperor sent for the Muslim high priests and in a special meeting convened for the purpose, he disclosed the undertaking contained in the petitions presented by the Brahmins. The Brahmins were sent back to Kaslimir and the governor thereof was told that he should not resort to forcible conversions till further orders.
At the same time the Emperor ordered that Guru Tegh Bahadur should be brought from Anandpur Sahib. It is stated that the Ninth Guru gave in writing that he would be coming to Delhi of his own.
Before leaving Anandpur Sahib, the Ninth Master made a choice of the disciples who were to accompany him. They included Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Dayal Das and others of the same firmness of faith. His wife Mata Gujari was told to give up the resolve to accompany him. She was to remain with the young Gobind Rai. She was assured that the Tenth Guru to be had eternal greatness in him.
Prayer was the sheet anchor of Gobind Rai, who at that young age courageously bade farewell to his great father.
Guru Tegh Bahadur, after halting firstly at Saifabad near present day Patiala, then at several other places reached Agra. It was at Agra that when found in a garden, he was taken into custody. After a few days, in almost all parts of the country, it became known that he was being held in detention at Delhi.
The day came when the Guru and his companions were brought before Aurangzeb. After some discussions the Ninth Guru was told that his name signified that he was a great warrior. The Emperor demanded that as a Prophet the Guru should be able to perform miracles. After listening to whatever Aurangzeb had to say, the Ninth Master observed that history would always bow in reverence before the great miracle which.he was going to perform.
In order to mould the mind of the Guru and his disciples, Aurangzeb sought to employ the technique of disengaging his sympathy from the Pandits. The Guru was told that the Hindus were idol-worshippers and that he was the torch-bearer of Guru Nanak Dev who had insisted that God was one and He alone was to be worshipped. The Guru was asked as to why was he trying to maintain for the Hindus the right to worship idols. Was not his insistence going to establish that idol worship was to be upheld and maintained?
The Ninth Master told the Emperor that he should not be proud of the authority which was vested in him. Existence by itself was transitory. It was emphasised that it was absolutely wrong that Hinduism was confined to idol worship.
The Emperor was deaf to all explanations. Surrounded by the Muslim high priests, he felt that he would fall in the estimation of his co-religionists if he could not handle the Guru and his companions in such a manner as would by itself break down their strength of mind and thus pave the way for their conversion to Islam. The Guru was told that he was to facilitate conversions to Islam. In the alternative, along with his devotees, he would suffer death. The Ninth Master affirmed that neither he nor his companions feared death.
In order to strike terror it was decided that Bhai Mati Das, in the first instance, be put to death.
When the Ninth Master came to know about the threats given by the Mughal officers, he blessed his devotees and declared that they were evermore to occupy a high place in history.
In accordance with the barbarous code of those times, Bhai Mati Das was put between two wooden planks and with a saw running through him, his body was cut into twain. Even while bleeding, it was observed that the body of the martyr Bhai Mati Das was vibrating with the recitation of. Gurubani.
The Mughal demon was not satisfied yet. The executioners tied up the hands and feet of Bhai Dayal Das. While he was reciting Japuji Sahib he was put into a cauldron of boiling oil. Some of the writers state that it was cauldron of boiling water. Reciting Gurubani as long as he could, with eyes closed in meditation, Bhai Dayal Das suffered martyrdom by being boiled to death.
The Ninth Master had been made to witness the martyrdoms being attained by his beloved disciples, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Dayal Das. He was being kept in a cell in the Kotwali which became a highly sanctified spot because it is believed that it was there that God spoke through him in the language in which his ‘slokas’ arranged in the ultimate part of Guru Granth Sahib are contained.
It is from that cell that he sent all those articles which were to be used at Anandpur Sahib while according accession to the Tenth Master, as the occupant of the throne of Nanak. His devotees having been put to death, the next day, i.e., on 11th of November, 1675, the ground in front of the Kotwali was swept clean. Water was sprinkled by the waterman. Then arrived Kazi Abdul Wahab Borah who had with him the orders for getting the Ninth Master executed.
The Master, who had been brought out of the iron cage, took his seat under a banyan tree. He told the Kazi that he was to recite Gurubani and sit in meditation and that as soon as the recitation would be over he would, after making the ultimate prayer, bow his head in reverence before the Almighty, and that on his making that sign, he may be executed. It is stated that the Ninth Master started reciting Japji Sahib unto himself. As soon as he completed the recitation and bowed his head in the manner indicated by him earlier, the executioner Jalaluddin struck the sword with such force that the Ninth Guru’s head was severed from the body. It is stated that suddenly dark clouds caused a deep shadow and a very strong gust began to blow. The executioner and his companions were terrified and ran away from the scene. They thought that the earth was going to break assunder on account of the martyrdom of the Guru and that they would be engulfed.
It is a well-known fact that while the head of the Ninth Master was carried by one of his devotees all the way from Chandni Chowk to Anandpur Sahib, his body was removed in a bullock cart by Bhai Lakhi Shah. Bhai Jaita, who had taken away the head for being proferred to the Tenth Guru at Anandpur Sahib, belonged to a low caste called ‘Ranghretas’. Bhai Lakhi Shah went straight to his dwelling at the place where Gurdwara Shri Rakab Ganj now stands in lofty splendour near Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Central Secretariat at New Delhi. The Ninth Master’s staunch devotee placed the body inside his house and set it on fire. It is a matter of common faith that at the spot where the Guru’s body was cremated is the raised platform in Rakab Ganj on which Guru Granth Sahib is every day placed for worship. Gurbani is recited from Guru Granth Sahib numerous times during the day. On one side front is a temporary wooden platform on which the temple choristers sit with their musical instruments and perform Kirtan’, that is, holy music.
When Bhai Jaita reached Kiratpur Sahib with the head of the Ninth Master, a procession was formed which proceeded to
Anandpur Sahib. Guru Gobind Rai, the Tenth Master with a composed face, received the severed head of his father. Prayerfully he closed his eyes for a while and then placed the head on a special pyre of sandalwood. He took Bhai Jaita in his arms and while embracing him pronounced, ‘Ranghrete Guru Ke Bate’ (The low-caste Ranghretas are the Guru’s sons). By that act the Tenth Master who was about nine years of age asserted that untouchability stood abolished. All were equal.
Describing the martyrdom of his father, the Tenth Master wrote in Bachittar Natak years later:
Arose from the inhabitants of the world,
Resounded with shouts of his triumph!"
The Ninth Master’s commendments were:
1. ALWAYS BE FEARLESS. DO NOT STRIKE FEAR INTO ANYONE. DO NOT BE DOWN-HEARTED WHATEVER THE ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES MAY BE.
2. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE LOVE FOR GOD PREVADING YOU CONSTANTLY, THEN YOURS IS A LIFE COMPARABLE TO THAT OF A DOG OR A PlG. YOU SHOULD BE IN PERPETUAL LOVE WITH GOD.
3. NO TEMPORAL AUTHORITY IS HIGHER THAN SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY. IT IS GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY ALONE WHICH SHOULD RULE YOUR MIND AND DETERMINE YOUR ACTIONS.
4. SACRIFICE ALONE CAN CAUSE REAL AWAKENING. PEOPLE ARE BOUND TO FOLLOW TRUTH. YOU MUST TREAD THE PATH WHlCH CAN MAKE YOU ONE WITH THE DIVINE.
5. YOU ARE GOING ABOUT ALONG WITH THE REST OF WORLD WITH A BEGGAR’S BOWL. DO NOT ASK ANYONE FOR ALMS. GOD ALONE CAN GRANT AND FULFIL ALL YOUR WlSHES.
It is through the faith of his followers that Guru Tegh Bahadur lives evermore. He attracts his devotees at all times and bestows truthful guidance and blessing.
After the departure of the Ninth Guru from Anandpur Sahib, the Tenth Master had been continuing to function as his successor. It was, however, on 29th March, 1676 that a big gathering took place at Anandpur Sahib and Gobind Rai, at about ten years of age, ascended the spiritual throne of Guru Nanak
He faced the great task of restoring confidence in his devotees that they were destined to fight the battle for the freedom of the people. They were to become saint soldiers, constituting a unique force meant to fight the dominating forces of tyranny.
The Holy Gurus and their Commandments