Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur: November 24
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur is a religious observance for the Sikhism followers. This day is NOT a public holiday in any country.
Sikhism followers remember the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur on November 24. He was beheaded as he refused to be forced to accept Islam as his religion and now stands as an example of freedom of choosing each one’s religion.
History of Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur
The events that led to the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur started with the ascension to the throne of the Mughal Empire by Emperor Aurangzeb. This Emperor ruled for 49 years and as he came into power he killed his brothers and locked in prison his father. He also tried by force to convert all of his empire to Islam. He managed to convert many using fear and terror and his successors continued his campaign to end the Hindu and Sikh religions.
Guru Tegh Bahadur and all his followers were friends of the Kashmiri Pandits, Hindus known for their high intellect and education. It came a time when the Kashmiri Pandits came under direct threat of extermination from Aurangzeb. So they came to Guru Tegh Bahadur asking for help in defense from the Mughals.
Pandit Kripa Ram met the Guru in Anandpur Sahib. It is said that the Guru was left in a great dilemma, because he understood that someone had to sacrifice himself to raise awareness of the evil ways of the Mughal Emperor. His son of 9 years old, Gobind Rai, the next sikh Guru after the death of his father, gave him the answer: he should be the one to sacrifice himself. So, Guru Tegh Bahadur told the Pandits to inform Aurangzeb that if he was to convert him to Islam then everyone would convert also, if not then they should be left alone.
The Emperor as he heard this, sent his guards to arrest Tegh Bahadur. In 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur arrived in Delhi with some of his followers and were told to convert to Islam or face death. In order to proof his sainthood, he was also tempted to perform miracles. He replied that he would rather die than to give up on his faith and freedom of belief, he did not also perform any miracle by request. Under Aurangzeb’s orders, the Guru and his companions were tortured for days. His companions were sawn, boiled and roasted as the Guru watched the horrendous deaths.
But Guru Tegh Bahadur did not flinch in his resolution and his faith. He was beheaded in a public square, the Chandni Chowk, because he was accused of preventing the spread of Islam. His example lived on, Hindus still today praise him for stepping up to defend them, and he has earned the title of Shield of India.
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Traditions, Customs and Activities
Guru Tegh Bahdur Martyrdom Day is one of the ten most important festivals observed by all Sikhs. Like in the other festivals it is custom for all Sikhs in a community to organize a procession, a Prabhat Pherys, where the Panj Pyares lead the procession and are followed by musicians, dancers and gatka teams performing martial arts.
Passages from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scriptures of Sikh Gurus, are read out loud during the day, and lectures are organized to preach and teach the scriptures, especially the ones of Guru Tegh Bahadur. They sing hymns while dancing in joy, as Sikhs gathered at the gurdwaras, the places of worship for Sikhs. At early morning there are morning hymns, or Asa di Var, followed by an exposition of the Guru Granth Sahib. During the day there is food served and everybody joins in prayers and joyous singing. Around sunset it is time for the Rehras, or evening prayers.