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Under the new rule of Jahangir in India, a Mughal ruler, the Sikhs began to feel oppressed. The new rule targeted the Sikhs and their leader at the time, Guru Arjan Dev Jee. This oppression was felt again with the ninth leader of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. The Sikhs in the mid 1500’s and the mid 1600s lost their leaders due to an offensive by the Mughal rule. The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Guru Arjan Dev Sahib ultimately laid the foundation for future Sikhs to feel a need to be ready for conflict and be willing to give themselves up for a greater good.
Guru Arjan Dev Sahib was the first martyr of the Sikh faith. This execution occurred in 1606. The reasons Guru Arjan Dev Ji was executed was were for allegations against him by the Moghul government. They claimed that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was “a Hindu named Arjan, in the garments of sainthood and sanctity, so much so that he had captured many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus, and even of the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners, and they had loudly sounded the drum of his holiness.” (Diary of Emperor Jahangir). Jahangir was ignorant enough to state that the leader of the Sikhs was a Hindu. He made false allegations against Guru Arjan Dev Sahib which ultimately led to the Guru’s martyrdom. The reason this Guru was considered a martyr was because Jahangir was attempting to force Guru Arjan Dev Ji to convert to Islam as stated again in his diary,”Many times it occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or to bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam.” This shows how Jahangir was only interested in bringing him to Islam because we was going to execute him if he did not want to convert. The execution of Guru Arjan Dev Jee lasted 5 days. Each day became worse and worse. The last day before complete death is considered the worst day by the Sikhs. The Guru was forced to sit on a red hot iron plate in front of many people and had burning hot sand poured all over his body. Guru Arjan Dev Jee supposedly did not utter a word. The days of the tortures were despairing and grief stricken. The Sikhs “plunged into sorrow and grief over the death of Guru Arjan, who was not only the leader of Sikh religion, holding a position ‘equivalent to that of Pope amongst the Christians,’ to use the words of the Rev. Fr. Fernao Guerreiro, but was also a saint and a scholar who had given to the world a scripture of the highest order.” (Dr. Ganda Singh, Guru Arjan’s Martyrdom). After this horrific event, the Sikhs had to become strong and be independent from the Mughal rule, always ready to defend themselves and others being oppressed by the Mughals.
There was an exceptional amount of peace for the next seventy years after Guru Arjan Dev Jee’s passing. Then, in November of 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur, in Delhi heard that Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor at the time, was prosecuting Hindus and forcing them to convert to Islam. Though the Sikhs and Hindus had different beliefs, they always respected each other. Learning from Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib took a stand against Aurangzeb and said that it is utterly unacceptable to force someone to convert to another belief system. Aurangzeb said that in order to stop the conversion of Hindus, a major leader needed to die. Guru Tegh Bahadur decided to travel to Aurangzeb and give himself up for the sake of the Hindus. He brought along three other Sikhs, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Daas, and Bhai Dayala Jee. All of them would not return. When reaching where Aurangzeb was, Guru Tegh Bahadur Jee was himself told to convert to Islam. He utterly refused. This did not hold well with the Mughal emperor and stated in order to stop the killing and converting of the Hindus Guru Tegh Bahadur, along with his three companions were told they will be killed. Guru Tegh Bahadur gladly accepted as it would stop the oppression of the Hindus. Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded in front of many people in Delhi along with Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, and Bhai Dayala Jee. Bhai Mati Das was sawn in half from the skull down. Bhai Sati Das was wrapped in cotton and burned alive. Bhai Dayala Jee was boiled alive and Guru Tegh Bahadur Jee was beheaded. The execution of the Guru is famously described by acclaimed Sikh historian, Rattan Singh Bhangoo.
The Sikhs have continued to go back to the martyrdoms of their leader s as an inspiration to always do what is right. Sikhs look back and think that because the highest person in the religion made the ultimate sacrifice for another religion as Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib did, they should always attempt to do the right thing. These events also led to Sikhs becoming very skilled warriors later on because they needed a way to protect themselves from oppression in India. The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Guru Arjan Dev Sahib ultimately laid the foundation for future Sikhs to feel a need to be ready for conflict and be willing to give themselves up for a greater good.
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