Guru Tegh Bahadur

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Guru Tegh Bahadur
Born Tyag Mal
1 April 1621 (1621-04)
Amritsar, India
Died 24 November 1675 (1675-11-25) (aged 54)
Delhi, India
Nationality Greater India
Other names The Shield of India, Mighty of the Sword, The Ninth Master, The True King
Years active 1664–1675
Known for Spiritual contributions to Guru Granth Sahib, Martyrdom for resisting the forced conversions of Kashmiri Hindus, and himself refusing to convert to Islam, Founder of Anandpur Sahib , Founder of Patiala
Predecessor Guru Har Krishan
Successor Guru Gobind Singh
Spouse(s) Mata Gujri
Children Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Hargobind

Mata Nanaki

Guru Tegh Bahadur (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਤੇਗ਼ ਬਹਾਦਰ, Punjabi pronunciation: [ɡʊru teɣ bəhɑdʊɾ]; 1 April 1621 – 24 November 1675,[1][2]), revered as the ninth Nanak, was the ninth of ten Gurus (Prophets) of the Sikh religion. Guru Tegh Bahadur carried forward the light of sanctity and divinity of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak; his spiritual revelations dealing with varied themes such as the nature of God, human attachments, body, mind, sorrow, dignity, service, death and deliverance, are registered in the form of 115 poetic hymns in the sacred text Guru Granth Sahib.

Although a Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur was approached by Hindu Pandits from Kashmir in 1675, to seek his intercession against the forced conversions of Hindus to Islam by the Mughal rulers of India. For resisting these forced conversions [3] and for himself refusing to convert to Islam,[4][5][6] Guru Teg Bahadur was publicly executed via beheading at the imperial capital Delhi on the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.[7] Along with Guru Teg Bahadur, three other Sikhs, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala, were also executed. Owing to this sacrifice, Guru Tegh Bahadur is revered as Hind-di-Chaadar (shield of Hind(India)). Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib in Delhi mark the places of execution and cremation of the Guru's body.

On Guru Teg Bahadur's sacrifice, the tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, wrote

Thheekar forh dilees sir, Prabh pur keeaa payaan,
Teg Bahadur see kirya, karee na kinahoo aan.
Teg Bahaadur ke chalat, bhayo jagat ko sok,
Hai hai hai sabh jag bhayo, jai jai jai sur lok.

Casting off his bodily vesture on the head of Suzerain Of Delhi; Teg Bahadur departed to the Realm of God.
None who came into the world performed such glorious deeds as him.
On his departure, there was dismay in the world.
This world cried, Alas, Alas ! (But) The Heavens rang with greetings of victory.

—  Guru Gobind Singh, [8]

Early life[edit]

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born in a Sodhi Family.[9] The Sixth guru, Guru Hargobind had one daughter Bibi Viro and five sons: Baba Gurditta, Suraj Mal, Ani Rai, Atal Rai and Tyaga Mal Khatri.[10] Tyaga Mal Khatri was born in Amritsar in the early hours of 1 April 1621. The name Tegh Bahadur (Mighty Of The Sword), was given to him by Guru Hargobind after he had shown his valour in a battle against the Mughals.

Amritsar at that time was the centre of Sikh faith. As the seat of the Sikh Gurus, and with its connection to Sikhs in far-flung areas of the country through the chains of Masands or missionaries, it had developed the characteristics of a state capital. Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh was brought up in Sikh culture. He was trained in the martial-arts of archery and horsemanship, and was also taught the old classics. He underwent prolonged spells of seclusion and contemplation. Tegh Bahadur was married on 3 February 1633, to Mata Gujri.[11]

Stay at Bakala[edit]

In the 1640s, nearing his death, Guru Hargobind said to his wife Nanaki, to move to his ancestral village of Bakala in Amritsar district, together with Guru Tegh Bahadur and Mata Gujri. Bakala, as described in Gurbilas Dasvin Patishahi, was then a properous town with many beautiful pools, wells and baolis. Guru Tegh Bahadur meditated at Bakala for about twenty years (1644-1664) and lived there with his wife and mother.[12] He spent most of his time in meditation, but was not a recluse, and attended to family responsibilities. He made visits outside Bakala, and also visited the eighth Sikh guru Guru Har Krishan, when the latter was in Delhi.[12]


In March 1664 Guru Har Krishan contracted smallpox. When asked by his followers who would lead them after him, he replied Baba Bakala, meaning his successor was to be found in Bakala. Taking the advantage of the ambiguity in the words of the dying Guru, many installed themselves as the new Guru.[13] Sikhs were puzzled to see so many claimants.[13][14]

The Sikh tradition has a legend on how Guru Tegh Bahadur was found and chosen as the ninth guru. A wealthy trader, Baba Makhan Shah Labana, had once prayed for his life and had promised to gift 500 gold coins to the Sikh guru if he survived.[13] He arrived in search of the ninth Guru. He went from one claimant to the next making his obeisance and offering two gold coins to each Guru, believing that the right guru would know that his silent promise was to gift 500 coins for his safety. Every "guru" he met accepted the 2 gold coins and bid him farewell.[13] Then he discovered that Guru Tegh Bahadur, who also lived at Bakala. Labana gifted Tegh Bahadur the usual offering of two gold coins. Tegh Bahadur gave him his blessings and remarked that his offering was considerably short of the promised five hundred. Makhan Shah Labana forthwith made good the difference and ran upstairs. He began shouting from the rooftop, "Guru ladho re, Guru ladho re" meaning "I have found the Guru, I have found the Guru".[13]

In August 1664 a Sikh Sangat arrived in Bakala and anointed Tegh Bahadur as the ninth guru of Sikhs. The Sangat was led by Diwan Durga Mal, and a formal "Tikka ceremony" was performed by Bhai Gurditta on Tegh Bahadur conferring Guruship on him.[14]

As had been the custom among Sikhs after the execution of Guru Arjan by Mughal Emperor Jahangir, Guru Tegh Bahadur was surrounded by armed bodyguards.[15] He himself lived an austere life.[16]


He contributed many hymns to the Guru Granth Sahib]including the Saloks, or couplets near the end of the Guru Granth Sahib.[16] Guru Tegh Bahadur toured various parts of India, and was asked by Gobind Sahali to construct several Sikh temples in Mahali. His works include 116 shabads, 15 ragas and his bhagats are credited with 782 compositions that are part of bani in Sikhism.[17]

His works are included in Adi Granth, from pages 219 to 1427.[18] They cover a wide range of topics, such as the nature of God, human attachments, body, mind, sorrow, dignity, service, death and deliverance.[18] For example, in Sorath rag, Guru Tegh Bahadur describes what an ideal human being is like,[18]

jo na dukh mein dukh nahin manney, sukh snehh ar bhai nahi ja kai, kanchan maati manney
na nindya nehn usttat ja kai lobh moh abhimana
harakj sog tey rahey niaro nahen maan apmana, aasa mansa sagal tyagey
jagg tey rahey nirasa, kaam krodh jeh parsai
the ghatt brahma niwasa

One who is not perturbed by misfortune, who is beyond comfort, attachment and fear, who considers gold as dust.
He neither speaks ill of others nor feels elated by praise and shuns greed, attachments and arrogance.
He is indifferent to ecstasy and tragedy, is not affected by honors or humiliations. He renounces expectations, greed.
He is neither attached to the worldliness, nor lets senses and anger affect him.
In such a person resides God.

— Guru Tegh Bahadur, Sorath 633 (Translated by Gopal Singh), [18]


Guru Tegh Bahadur travelled extensively in different parts of the country, including Dhaka and Assam, to preach the teachings of Nanak, the first Sikh guru. The places he visited and stayed in, became sites of Sikh temples.[19] During his travels, Guru Tegh Bahadur spread the Sikh ideas and message, as well as started community water wells and langars (community kitchen charity for the poor).[20][21]

The Guru made three successive visits to Kiratpur. On 21 August 1664, Guru went there to console with Bibi Rup upon the death of her father, Guru Har Rai, the seventh Sikh guru, and of her brother, Guru Har Krishan.[citation needed] The second visit was on 15 October 1664, at the death on 29 September 1664, of Bassi, the mother of Guru Har Rai. A third visit concluded a fairly extensive journey through northwest Indian subcontinent. His son Guru Gobind Singh, who would be the tenth Sikh guru, was born in Patna, while he was away in Dhubri, Assam in 1666, where stands the Gurdwara Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. He there helped end the war between Raja Ram Singh of Bengal and Raja Chakardwaj of Ahom state (later Assam).[20][22] He also visited the towns of Mathura, Agra, Allahabad and Varanasi.[23]

After his visit to Assam, Bengal and Bihar, the Guru visited Rani Champa of Bilaspur who offered to give the Guru a piece of land in her state. The Guru bought the site for 500 rupees. There, Guru Tegh Bahadur founded the city of Anandpur Sahib in the foothills of Himalayas.[6][24]

In 1672 Guru Tegh Bahadur travelled through Kashmir and the North-West Frontier, to meet the masses, as the persecution of non-Muslims reached new heights.[25]

Martyrdom of Guru by Aurangzeb[edit]

Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib in Delhi. The long window under the marble platform is the location where Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred.

In 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed in Delhi on 11 November under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.[4][5] No contemporary detailed accounts of the circumstances of his arrest and execution have survived either in Persian or Sikh sources. The only accounts available are those written about a 100 years later, and these accounts are conflicting.[26]

According to the official account of the Mughal Empire, written 107 years later by Ghulam Husain of Lucknow in 1782,[26][27]

Martyrdom day

Shahidi or martyrdom of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji in 1675 was a unique event in the history of the world. Guru Nanak had refused to wear the sacred threat (janeyoo) of the Hindus, but in his ninth form he sacrificed himself to protect the right of Hindus to wear their mark (tilak) on forehead and wear their sacred thread.

Kashmiri Pandits not only recognise the fact but they appealed to the spirit of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji by presenting a humble plaint at Gurdwara Sis Ganj Delhi on 14.9.1993 to come to their rescue once again. In their plaint they submitted “O, True Master! had you not listened to the plaint of the 500 representatives of Kashmiri Pandits who had come to Anandpur Sahib in 1675 under the leadership of Pandit Kripa Ram and given your great sacrifice that opened everyone’s eyes we would have been obliterated from the soil of India.” Again on 16.4.1995 at the end of their Kritagya Yatra they inscribed their plaint in Hindi on a large stone (Shila) brought from Kashmir and offered it for permanent fixation at Anandpur Sahib. In it they have written “.... We owe our existence to your sacrifice way back in 1675 when on the humble plaint of Pandit Kripa Ram Datt leading a delegation of 500 pandits from Kashmir you created history by your epoch making Martyrdom....”

There is no parallel to this sacrifice anywhere in the world where the head of an emerging religion and nation offered his head to guarantee the right of followers of another religion faith and nation to practise their religion in their own way. Guru Gobind Singh Ji had himself stated about the sacrifice as under:

“Tilak Janju Raakh Prabh Taaka. Kio Badu Kallu Meh Saaka

Sees Dia Parr Sirar Na Diya.”

(Lord saved their tilak and janju and performed a great deed in the Kali Age. He gave his head but not the resolve).

November 24 should be declared a national holiday and human rights day

— KULDIP SINGH, Tribune Records

Satish Chandra cautions that this was the "official justification", which historically can be expected to be full of evasion and distortion to justify official action.[26]

Another Muslim scholar, Ghulam Muhiuddin Bute Shah wrote his Tarikh-i-Punjab in 1842,[28] over a century and half after the death of Guru Tegh Bahadur, saying that there was ongoing hostility from Ram Rai, the elder brother of Guru Har Kishan, against Guru Tegh Bahadur. Ghulam Muhiuddin Bute Shah said that "Ram Rai represented to the Emperor that Guru Tegh Bahadur was very proud of his spiritual greatness and that he would not realise his fault unless he was punished. Ram Rai also suggested that Guru Tegh Bahadur be asked to appear before the Emperor to work a miracle, if he failed, he could be put to death." Satish Chandra and others say that this account is also doubtful as to the circumstances or cause of Guru Tegh Bahadur's execution.[26][29]

Sikh historians record that Guru Tegh Bahadur had become a socio-political challenge to the Muslim rule and Aurangzeb.[4] The Sikh movement was rapidly growing in the rural Malwa region of Punjab, and the Guru was openly encouraging Sikhs to, "be fearless in their pursuit of just society: he who holds none in fear, nor is afraid of anyone, is acknowledged as a man of true wisdom", a statement recorded in Adi Granth 1427.[4][5] While Guru Tegh Bahadur influence was rising, Aurangzeb had imposed Islamic laws, demolished infidel schools and temples, and enforced new taxes on non-Muslims.[5][6][23]

The main substantive record however comes from Guru Tegh Bahadur's son, Guru Gobind Singh in his composition, Bachittar Natak. This composition is recited in every Sikh place of workshop on the occasion of the Guru's martyrdom. According to records written by his son Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru had resisted persecution, adopted and promised to protect Kashmiri Hindus.[4][30] The Guru was summoned to Delhi by Aurangzeb on a pretext, but when he arrived, he was offered, "to abandon his faith, and convert to Islam".[4][30] Guru Tegh Bahadur refused, he and his associates were arrested. He was executed on November 11, 1675 before public in Chandni Chowk, Delhi.[5][30]

William Irvine states that Guru Tegh Bahadur was tortured for many weeks while being asked to abandon his faith and convert to Islam; he stood by his convictions and refused, he was then executed.[31][32] Sikh tradition says that the associates of the Guru were also tortured for refusing to convert: Bhai Mati Das was sawed into pieces and Bhai Dayal Das was thrown into a cauldron of boiling water, while Guru Tegh Bahadur was held inside a cage to watch his colleagues suffer.[33] The Guru himself was beheaded in public.[34][35]

Impact of execution[edit]

Legacy and memorials[edit]

Guru Har Gobind was Guru Tegh Bahadur's father. He was originally named Tyag Mal (Punjabi: ਤਿਆਗ ਮਲ) but was later renamed Tegh Bahadur after his gallantry and bravery in the wars against the Mughal forces. He built the city of Anandpur Sahib, and was responsible for saving the Kashmiri Pandits, who were being persecuted by the Mughals.[5]

After the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadar by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, a number of Sikh temples were built in his and his associates' memory. The Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, was built over where he was beheaded.[36] Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, also in Delhi, is built on the site of the residence of a disciple of Teg Bahadur, who burnt his house in order to cremate his master's body. Another Gurudwara by the same name, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib at Ambala City where that man halt for a night with Teg Bahadur's head after that he went for Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.[36] Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib in Punjab marks the site where in November 1675, the head of the martyred Guru Teg Bahadar which was brought by Bhai Jaita (renamed Bhai Jivan Singh according to Sikh rites) in defiance of the Mughal authority of Aurangzeb was cremated here.[37]

Guru Tegh Bahadur has ever since been remembered for giving up his life for freedom of religion, reminding Sikhs and non-Muslims in India to follow and practice their beliefs without fear of persecution and forced conversions by Muslims.[4][5] Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred, along with fellow devotees Bhai Mati Dass, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala.

Guru Tegh Bahadur spoke out amid this persecution.[6]

Effect on Sikhs[edit]

Guru Tegh Bahadur's execution hardened the resolve of Sikhs against Muslim rule and the persecution. Pashaura Singh states that, "if the martyrdom of Guru Arjan had helped bring the Sikh Panth together, Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom helped to make the protection of human rights central to its [Sikh] identity".[4] Wilfred Smith[38] states that, "the attempt to forcibly convert the ninth Guru to an externalized, impersonal Islam clearly made an indelible impression on the martyr's nine year old son, Gobind, who reacted slowly but deliberately by eventually organizing the Sikh group into a distinct, formal, symbol-patterned community". It inaugurated the Khalsa identity.[38]

Places named after Guru Teg Bahadur[edit]

A number of places are named after the ninth guru of Sikhs, Guru Teg Bahadur.

  • Guru Teg Bahadur Charitable Hospital, Ludhiana
  • Guru Teg Bahadur Public School, Patran (District Patiala)
  • Gurudwara Sahib, Sri Guru Teg bahadur Nagar, Jalandhar (Punjab)


  • Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Education Society Patli Dabar, Sirsa' (Haryana)
  • <<Guru Tegh Bahadur; Commemorative Volume. Editor: Satbir Singh. Publisher: Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Tercentenary Martyrdom Gurpurab Committee. Govt. of India.1975
  • Gokalchand Narang; Transformation of Sikhism
  • Puran Singh; The book of Ten Masters
  • N.K Sinha; Rise of Sikh Panth
  • Teja Singh Ganda Singh; A Short History of the Sikhs.


  1. ^ W. H. McLeod (1984). Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. Manchester University Press. pp. 31–33. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Ninth Master Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621 - 1675)". Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery - By M. A. Khan, page 199
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Seiple, Chris (2013). The Routledge handbook of religion and security. New York: Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-415-66744-9. 
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  10. ^ Guru Gobind
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  13. ^ a b c d e Kohli, Mohindar (1992). Guru Tegh Bahadur : testimony of conscience. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 13–15. ISBN 978-81-7201-234-2. 
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  34. ^ SS Kapoor. The Sloaks of Guru Tegh Bahadur & The Facts About the Text of Ragamala. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-81-7010-371-4. 
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External links[edit]

Peer reviewed publications on Guru Tegh Bahadur
Other links
Preceded by
Guru Har Krishan
Sikh Guru
20 March 1665 - 11 November 1675
Succeeded by
Guru Gobind Singh