Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰੂ ਤੇਗ਼ ਬਹਾਦੁਰ) (Wednesday, April 18, 1621 – Wednesday, November 24, 1675), revered by the Sikhs as Srisht-di-Chadar (Protector of humanity), was the ninth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism. He had become Guru on 16 April 1664, following in the footsteps of his grand-nephew and the eighth Guru, Guru Har Krishan ji.
A poet, a thinker, and a warrior, Guru Teg Bahadur carried forward the light of sanctity and divinity of Guru Nanak Dev ji and the subsequent Sikh Gurus. His spiritual writings, detailing varied themes such as the nature of God, human attachments, body, mind, sorrow, dignity, service, death, and deliverance, are registered in the form of 116 poetic hymns in the sacred scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. To spread the message of Sikhism, Guru ji traveled extensively throughout the Indian subcontinent, setting up several new preaching centers. He also founded the town of Chak-Nanki in the Punjab, after the revered name of his Mother Mata Nanki ji. The town was later enlarged by the tenth Nanak Guru Gobind Singh ji and came to be known as Sri Anandpur Sahib.
Although a Guru of the Sikhs, in May 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur was approached by Hindu Pandits from the Kashmir region, seeking the Guru’s intercession against the forced conversions of Hindus to Islam by the Mughal rulers of India. For resisting these forced conversions, and for himself refusing to convert to Islam, Guru Teg Bahadur was publicly executed via beheading at the imperial capital Delhi on the orders of the Emperor Aurangzeb. Today, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib stand at the sites of beheading and cremation of Guru ji’s body. Along with Guru Teg Bahadur, three other Sikhs, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dyal Das, were also executed.
On Guru Teg Bahadur’s supreme sacrifice meant to champion fundamental human rights for all, his son and 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”. The Heavens rang with greetings of victory.
(Guru Gobind Singh)