image caption:

Guru Tegh bahadur, the Champion of Human Rights (1621-1675)

By: Dr. Sukhbir Singh Kapoor (Vice Chancellor, World Sikh University London)

Human rights are ethical doctrines that describe values of human behaviour and are protected as legal rights in the international law. They are egalitarian and democratic in character. These are rights which are believed to belong to every person without any restriction.

In 1776 most of the British colonies in North America proclaimed their independence from the British Empire in a document which still stirs feelings, and debate, the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In 1789 the people of France overthrew their monarchy and established the first French Republic. Out of the revolution came the "Declaration of the Rights of Man."

Philosopher David Thoreau (1817-1862) ( Massachusetts USA) expanded the concept and is the first philosopher to use the term, "human rights", his work has been extremely influential on individuals as different as Leo Tolstoy (Russia), Mahatma Gandhi (India), and Martin Luther King (Atlanta, Georgia)

Other early proponents of human rights were English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), in his Essay on Liberty, and American political theorist Thomas Paine (1737-1809) in his essay, The Rights of Man.


Guru Tegh Bahadur, 1621-75

[]]He proceeds all above who are credited, in the known world literature, with the concept of Human Rights]


Guru Tegh Bahadur was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind and Mata Nanaki.

Place and year of birth:

He was born on 1st April 1621 in Amritsar, and was martyred on 24th November 1675 in Delhi (Chandni Chowk), at that time he was 54 years of age.


Guru Tegh Bahadur had 4 elder brothers, Baba Gurditta, Baba Ani Rai, Baba Atal and one elder sister Viro. He was married to Mata Gujri and had one son Guru Gobind Singh, and four grandsons: Baba Ajit Singh, Baba Jujhar Singh, Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh.

Guru period: []]1664-1675]

He was anointed as the ninth Guru of the Sikhs at the age of 43 and nourished the young religion under his guidance for 11 years.

After the death of his father, Guru Hargobind, his nephew, Harrai, son of his elder brother Baba Gurditta, was anointed as the seventh Guru and after the demise of Guru Harrai, , his youngest son, Harkrishen was made the eight Guru of the Sikhs. During this period of the Guruship of Guru Harari and Guru Harkrishen, in 1644 &ndash 1664, Guru Tegh Bahadur was meditating away in Bakala. in, his maternal home..

When Guru Harkrishen, at the time of his death, pointed towards Bakala to search the ninth Guru, it was, Makhan Shaha Lubana, a devotee of the house of Guru Nanak, who found the Guru, sitting in meditation in a cellar.

Guru Hargobind died in Kiratpur, where both Guru Harai and Guru Harkrishen were born.

Guru Harrai breathed his last in Kiratpur and Guru Harkrkrishen died in Delhi.

Early Life.

Guru Tegh Bahadur&rsquos childhood name was Tyag Mal, and watching his bravery and courage, at a very young and tender age, in various battles, which Guru Hargobind fought with the Mughals, Guru Hargobind gave him new name of Tegh Bahadur, meaning the Champion of Sword. The battles in which Guru Tegh Bahadur took part are:

Battle of Amritsar -14th April 1634 (Age 13) yrs)

Battle of Lahira &ndash 16th December 1634 (Age 13 yrs)

Battle of Kartarpur &ndash 26th April 1635 (Age 14 years)

It was the Kartarpur battle in 1637, which changed young Teg Bahadur&rsquos mind. Watching unnecessary bloodshed of thousands soldiers, some of his own army and some of enemy camp, he bade good bye to the sword and embraced the life of meditation. He, then, chose to go to Bakala with his wife Mata Gujri for a quiet and peaceful life to live with his mother Nanki

Time period of stay at different places

  • Amritsar &ndash 1621 &ndash 1635 []] first 14 years of his life]

During this period of his very young life he took part in various battles with his father and showed utmost bravery and courage. It is here that Guru Hargobind, changed the name of the young warrior from Teg Mal to Teg Bahadur ( meaning the champion of the sword).

The last war in which Guru Teg Bahadur took part was Kartarpur war (1April 1635), where thousand of soldiers lost their lives. It was at this juncture that the psyche of young Teg Bahadur changed and he made up his mind not to take further part in any battle and preferred to remain in silent meditation.

Kiratpur &ndash 1635-1644 []] 9 years of his adoslescent life, from the age 14 to 23]

After Kartarpur battle, there was another skirmish with the Mughals near Phagwara, called the battle of Phagwara.(April/May 1635). In this battle, Tegh Bahadur did not accompany his father.

After the battle of Phagwara, Guru Hargobind also changed his mind from further bloodshed and moved to Kiratpur, in a hilly area to have a quiet life. He established a new township here and later breathed his last, here, in 1644.

Four of his five sons had already died. Only Tegh Bahadur was alive, who too had vowed to live a life of quiet and solitude away from the duties of the Guruship. Guru Hargobind&rsquos choice of Guruship, then, fell on his grand son Harrai, younger son of Baba Gurditta. Harrai was 14 years old.

Bakala &ndash 1644 -1664 []] 20 years of his adult life, ]

Guru Tegh Bahadur lived a quiet life at his maternal home in Bakala, from the age of 23 to 43, when he was anointed, by the orders of the Almighty as the ninth Guru of the Sikhs.

Race to find the Ninth Guru

After the death of Guru Harkrishen (30th March 1664), there was a race to find the ninth Guru. In the last moments of his life, Guru Harkrishen had said, &ldquoBaba Bakale..&rdquo, when asked by the Sikhs, about his successor Guru.

From Delhi, Bakala is about 250 miles and about 26 miles from Amritsar.

It is recorded in the history books that 22 claimants put up their stalls to claim Guruship. Dhirmal, Guru Harrai&rsquos elder brother was one of them. The Sikhs in hundreds flocked to Bakala to find the true Guru, but remained dismayed. The faked claimants took from the devotees, by trickery and/or force, offerings, to keep their show running. This mall, full of shops of deceit and dishonesty ran for about 9 months.

Then in October 1664, a true and rich devotee of the house of Guru Nanak, named Makhan Shah Lubana, came to Bakala, in search of the true Guru. He had promised to give the Guru 500 gold coins, if his ship was saved from sinking in the heavy storm. According to the legend, he had prayed to Guru Nanak to save his ship from the storm and that he would give an offering of 500 gold coins to the Guru. His prayers were accepted and storms subsided and his ship reached shore safely.

While in Bakala, Makhan Shah was surprised to find 22 self made gurus. To find the true Guru, he executed a plan and offered only 2 gold coins, instead of 500 coins, to them one by one. Everyone accepted 2 gold coins and did not object, rather were pleased. Makhan Shah was disappointed, he was sure that none of them was the true Guru.

He, then, enquired if there was any other person who belonged to the Sodhi family and was around there. He was told about (Guru) Tegh Bahadur, who was meditating in the cellar of a reclusive house. Makhan Shah then decided to go and meet the Guru in his house. He was escorted by Mata Gujri to the cellar, where Guru was meditating. Makhan Shah bowed before the Guru and placed two gold coins before him. The Guru opened his eyes, looked at 2 gold coins, smiled and said: "Why are you breaking your promise? You have made a promise of 500 gold coins.&rdquo Makhan Shah was filled with joy. He was thrilled. He fell at the Guru's feet and placed 500 gold coins and rushed to the roof of the house and shouted at the top of his voice : "Guru Ladho re Guru Ladho re" (Guru is found, Guru is found)

On hearing this, there was a great rejoicing among the gathering. Then Baba Gurditta, the grandson of Baba Buddha , came forward and applied the tilak of Guruship on the forehead of Guru Tegh Bahadur and declared him to be the ninth Guru of the Sikhs.

Dhirmal, who had also claimed himself to be the Guru, could not bear this dramatic change of events, and out of jealousy had one of his agents named Shihan fire a bullet aiming at the newly anointed Guru.. The bullet passed close to the Guru's forehead. There was a slight bleeding and a little wound.

Guru Tegh Bahadur had meditated at Bakala for about twenty years (1644-1664) and lived there with his wife Mata Gujari and mother Mata Nanaki.

Guru Tegh Bahadur&rsquos travels:

Visit to Amritsar

After the anointment of the Guruship, Guru Tegh Bahadur with his entire family came to Amritsar, in November 1664 to pay obeisance at Harmandir, but the occupants of the shrine shut its doors against him and he was not allowed to enter. Guru Tegh Bahadur did not press or forced his entry, rather sat further up to have the darshan under a tree. A Gurdwara stands there to commemorate his stay. The tree has also been preserved.

Visit to Kiratpur (May 1665)

The Guru then proceeded to Kiratpur Sahib via Vallah, Khadur Sahib, Goindwal, Tarn Taran and Khem karan. He also visited Talwandi Saboke, Banger and Dhandaur.

Founding Anandpur (June 1665)

In June 1665 Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib bought some land from Raja of Bilaspur near Makhowal village on the bank of River Sutlej and founded a new town, now called Anandpur. Its orginal name was Chak-Nanki after the name of his mother Nanki.

Journey towards East (August 1665) and Guru&rsquos arrest (December 1665)

The Guru left Anandpur in August, 1665 along with a few close devotees, for a missionary journey towards the East.

A Mughal enforcement officer Alam Khan Rohella arrested the whole caravan under the imperial orders and produced them before the court of the Emperor Aurangzeb. The Emperor handed them to Ram Singh Kachhwaha, son of Raja Jai Singh Mirza for action.

The Raja was a devotee of the Guru, he took all of them to his house, and secured the releasing orders from the imperial court.

The Guru then visited Mathura, Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Benaras and reached Patna in May 1666. He left his family here and went further to spread Guru Nanak&rsquos message. Guru Gobind Singh was born here on Poh Sudi Satmi 1666, when Guru Tegh Bahadur was in Dacca. Here, in Dacca, Raja Ram Singh welcomed him and accompanied him to Assam. The Guru left Assam in April-May, 1670 and returned to Patna.

The Guru returned to Anandpur in February 1671. He had spent about two years in his Eastern journey peacefully, preaching the principles of Sikhism. .

Journey to Malwa Punjab ( 1672-1674)

In 1672, Guru Tegh Bahadur set out for another journey in which he covered Malwa region of Punjab. On route the Guru established many new preaching centres of Sikhism. The main and important halts of the Guru were Patiala (Dukhniwaran Sahib), Samaon, Bhiki, Tahla Sahib, and Talwandi in Bhatinda, Gobindpura, Makrora, Bangar and Dhamdhan.

Aurangzeb&rsquos reign of terror (1658-1707)

During the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb a sway of terror was let loose on the non Muslim masses. The prosecution included:

Compulsory conversion to Islam and in case of resistance, torturing and ultimately killing of the person. the Hindu Pandits and Brahmins of Kashi, Prayag, Kurukshetra, Haridwar and Kashmir were identified for this purpose

  • Enforced introduction of the Islamic programmes, including opening new Madrassas to spread Muslim laws.

  • Levying special taxes on the Hindu traders.

  • Putting Religious tax (Zazia) for non Muslims for worship and visits to their shrines.

  • Prohibition on the celebrations of Diwali, Holi and other Hindu festivals.

  • Demolishing of Hindu Temples and erecting mosques in place of them.

  • Prohibition of owning and riding a horse for non Muslims.

  • Prohibition of tying a turban for Hindus..

  • All over India, there was a wave of mass conversion and Sher Afgan Khan an Imperial viceroy first tried this in Kashmir. Thousands of Kahmiri Pandits were massacred and their property was confiscated

During this period of extreme atrocities, the Kashmiri Pandits led by Pandit Kirpa Ram Dutt approached Guru Tegh Bahadur at Anandpur in May 1675 for his help and advice. After long discussions with the prominent Sikhs, Hindus and Kashmiri Pandits, and specially the counselling of the 9 years old young Gobind Rai, the Guru made up his mind to challenge the mighty Aurangzeb, asking him to convert the Guru first, and if he could do this then the whole Hindu nation would follow the suit. The text of this challenge was duly endorsed by the Hindu Pandits.


This unexpected and daring challenge by the Guru, enraged the Emperor and he immediately issued orders of his arrest . But before the imperial summons reach Anandpur, the Guru had started his journey towards Delhi, after installing his son (Guru) Gobind Rai as the tenth Guru, in July 1675. Gobind Rai was only 9 years old.

Bhai Dayal Das, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and many other devoted Sikhs followed the Guru. When Guru Tegh Bahadur reached near Ropar, an imperial armed contingent led by Mirza Nur Mohammad Khan, arrested the Guru and his followers. First, he kept them in a prison at Bassi Pathanan, later they were all brought to Delhi.

Here, in Delhi, first Bhai Dayal Das, Bhai Mati Das and Bhai Sati Das were offered to convert to Islam or die a torturous death. They all refused to accept Islam and were mercilessly killed, in clear view of Guru Tegh Bahadur.

Bhai Dayal Das was boiled in a cauldron.

Bhai Mati Das was executed by being bound between two pillars and cut into two pieces.

Bhai Sati Das was wrapped in cotton wool soaked in oil and set on fire.

After the execution of the three, the authorities then turned to Guru and asked him:

  • to show miracles, or/and

  • to embrace Islam, or

  • to prepare himself for torturous death.

The Guru accepted the last choice, the authorities then ordered the executioner (Jallad) to sever Guru&rsquos head from his body.

The Imperial orders were strictly implemented. The historians quote this date as November 11, 1675 AD. A historical Gurdwara called Sis Ganj at Chandni Chowk marks the place where the execution took place.

It is recorded in history books that there was a furious storm after these brutal killings and it looked, if the night has, all of a sudden, fallen all over.

This caused confusion and havoc in and around the place of execution, and under this slipup one Bhai Jaita, took away the severed head of the Guru, placed it in a basket, covered it carefully and set out for Anandpur. The Anandpur is about 400 miles from Delhi.

Bhai Jaita reached Anandpur on 15th November. He was received there by young Gobind Rai and was called as &ldquoRangretta Guru Ka Beta.&rdquo The cremation of head was performed with full honour on the next day.

Anandpur Sahib:

While Bhai Jaita took away the head of the Guru, the body of the Guru was secretly taken to his house by yet another devoted Sikh named Lakhi Shah Lubana, in his cart, and he immediately built up a pyre inside his house and set fire to it. Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in New Delhi, marks the place of the cremation of he body of the Guru.


The martyrdom of the Guru changed the course of the history of India and ultimately brought the downfall of the Mughal Empire. Later the moment established the Sikh regime in Punjab, first under Banda Bahadur and then under Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Guru Tegh Bahadur had also composed may hymns and sloaks, before and after his arrest. It is believed that many of his hymns were destroyed by the Mughals out of the fear of Divine wrath. Despite this, Guru Gobind Singh was able to collect 115 hymns (57 sloaks and 58 shabads) of Guru Tegh Bahadur and included them in the revised version of Guru Granth Sahib, which the Guru finalized at Damdama Sahib in 1706.

Thus Guru Tegh Bahadur &lsquoHind di chadar&rsquo (honour of India) sacrified his life for the cause of Dharma, Truth, Uplifting of Humanity and for saving the compulsory Conversion of Hindus to Islam. We all bow our head to this Divine Champion of Human Rights.


Author: Dr. Sukhbir Singh Kapoor (Vice Chancellor, World Sikh University London)