Wednesday, December 7

Old Delhi

In 1675, Iftikhar Khan, Aurangzeb’s governor in Kashmir, was ordered to set about converting the Kashmiri Pandits to Islam by force. Those who would not succumb to the emperor’s pleasure fled for the Punjab. A delegation of the Pandits approached the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur and sought his protection. The Guru pronounced – Go tell the Mughal that we Pandits will gladly accept conversion if Tegh Bahadur the Sikh is persuaded to do so.

It is not clear what Tegh Bahadur thought the escalation steps would be, nor how he planned to negotiate with the Emperor. The Sikhs' military might was still quite nascent, and it is quite possible the Guru was carried away by the bravado of Dharma. Teg Bahaur's reply was duly conveyed to Aurangzeb, and orders were issued for his immediate arrest. Installing his son Gobind as his pro-tem successor, and taking leave of his family and followers, Tegh Bahadur began the journey to Delhi with three devoted Sikhs, the Bhais Mati Das, Sati Das and Dayal Das, in order to meet the Emperor. On the way, the Guru halted for the night at a village near Ropar. There he and his companions were taken prisoner and whisked away to Sirhind fort. After some months, they were brought to Delhi in chains. If you are a Guru, his captors asked, show us some miracle. That would amount to an interference with the work of God, Tegh Bahadur replied; He works in mysterious ways, if He wants to get involved He will.

The Emperor ordered torture. Mati Das, Sati Das and Dayal Das were brought to an open space in Chandni Chowk, where now stands a fountain. First, Bhai Mati Das was sawn across from head to loin. Bhai Dayal Das was pushed into a huge cauldron of boiling oil and Bhai Sati Das was roasted alive, with moist cotton wrapped around his body to prolong the agony. A chained, hanging Tegh Bahadur was made to witness the deaths of his companions. Convert and we will cease, he was told. After a few days of refusal, on November 11, 1675 at 11 o’clock in the morning, the Guru was brought to the open space and beheaded. His son Guru Gobind Singh, says in his autobiography Bichitar Natak (Strange Drama):

To protect sacred thread and forehead mark, in the dark age of Kali
He performed the supreme sacrifice, for the sake of Dharma
He gave away his life , without so much as a sigh from his lips
Gave his head, not his honor.

Sis diya par sir na diya. The area is today called Sisganj, and the gold-domed Sisganj Sahib gurudwara stands on the spot of the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur -- a stone's throw from the towering minarets of the Jama Masjid and the ochre ramparts of the Red Fort. Nearby is the famous Paranthey-wali Gali, where pure-ghee parantha bars stuggle to survive the onslaught of a new breed of fast foods -- the McDonalds 'Family Restaurant' stands across the street.


Post a Comment

<< Home