Guru Arjan Dev Ji – the first Sikh martyr
During the rein of Guru Arjan Dev ji, loads of people were joining 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 (financial advisor). 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 dispatched for the purpose. They searched and searched and when they reached Lahore, they heard about the Guru’s young son, HarGobind. They went to Amritsar and found HarGobind 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 HarGobind 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?”
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 HarGobind. 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 AmarDas ji) 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 Guru 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.
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 threatened 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 dispatched 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 joined, are united and they whom men joined, 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 suppression 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 TarnTaran and told him that he was needy, poor and had no traveling 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(Prithi Chand) 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 HarGobind. 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 Dev 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 Sulbi Khan, the nephew of late Sulhi Khan, to abstain from such practices. On his journey to Amritsar, Sulbi Khan confronted with some Pathans and was killed. When Chandu heard the death of Sulbi Khan, he convinced the Emperor that it had been done through the machinations of the Guru. He added other false allegations as well. 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 Dev ji.
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 happened to halt at the place where he was, and he came out and did homage to him. He behaved to Khusro in certain special 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.”
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 in bringing crowds of Hindus and Muslims to Sikhism, 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 Dev ji fell a victim to the bigotry and inhumanity of the Mohammadan Emperor.
Before his departure to Lahore, the all knowing Guru appointed his son, HarGobind 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 Dev ji.” 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 Dev ji’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 Dev ji was made to sit on the red hot iron pan (Tati Tavvi) 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, Sain 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 Sain Mian Mir saw Angels begging the Guru’s permission to destroy the wicked and the proud.
The Guru addressed Sain 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.” – (Guru Granth Sahib ji, Ang 394)
‘Sweet be Thy Will, my Lord
Nanak beseecheth the gift of Nam.’
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.
Sain Mian Mir asked, why was he enduring the suffering at the hands of his vile sinners when he possessed 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 Sain 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 afforded my pleasure.” He is said to have uttered this Shabad:
“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.”
(Guru Granth Sahib ji, Ang 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 reveled at the thought that the Guru’s body full of blisters, would undergo greater pain when dipped in cold water and he permitted 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 to the Divine Will, move not, stand calm against all 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!
Guru Sahib was martyred in 1606. Guru Sahib instructed that his martyrdom would show that all peaceful means to persuade the Emperor against tyranny having failed, it was now right and just to resort to the sword to protect the weak and innocent.
Thus Guru Sahib sacrificed his life to uphold the principle of Social, Economic, Political, Religious Freedom for all and doing Sewa, being Merciful and helping the needy.