Guru Arjan Dev Ji:
Guru Arjan Dev was the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. He was the first Sikh Martyr. a martyr is a person who is punished with death for refusing to give up his faith. A person who suffers or sacrifices his life, for great cause is also called a martyr. Guru Arjan Dev is called a martyr because, he went through untold bodily sufferings for the noble cause of freedom of faith and worship; because he condemned the rulers and the rich for their tyranny over the people; because he aroused in people's hearts a sense of dignity and self-respect, and because he refused to give up his faith and embrace Islam. Because of all that, he was ordered to be put to death by torture. Guru Arjan took up his duties as the fifth Guru in April 1563 A.D. At that time Akbar was the Emperor of India. he was a pious, kind-hearted and liberal-minded man. He was not a fanatic Muslim. He treated all his subjects in the same manner. He wanted all his subjects, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, to be equal citizens of his empire. His aim was to make his empire a secular State. All religions were to be treated alike. Islam was only one of the religions in the empire. The law of Islam was not to be the law of the land. Akbar had a very favorable and high opinion of the Sikhs and their Gurus. He took special pains to meet and befriend them.
Akbar was succeeded by his son, Jahangir, in October 1605 A.D. He was altogether different from his father. He was not pious, kind-hearted, or liberal-minded. He changed the religious policy of the empire. He made Islam the law of the land. The Qazis became the law-givers. They were all fanatic and bigoted. They believed that their own religion was the only true religion. In their view all other religions were false. All such religions, to them, forms of falsehood or kufar. Their followers were called "kafirs" or infidels, worshippers of falsehood. The Qazis believed that kafirs had no right to live in a Muslim state. In their opinion, the law of Islam required that all non-Muslims subjects must be converted to Islam or killed. Those who accepted Islam were given special favors and concessions. Those who did not give up their faith were subjected to all sorts of hardships. Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom was a result of this religious policy of Jahangir.
Guru Arjan Dev took up his duties in 1581. He was a great organizer and an able administrator. He set about organizing and uniting the Sikhs, increasing their numbers and improving their position. His manifold activities infused public spirit into the Sikh community. From the time of Guru Nanak, Hindus as well as Muslims, had been accepting the Sikh faith of their own accord and free will. They had been drawn into the Sikh fold charmed by the life and teachings of the Gurus. The Muslim rulers and Qazis did not like the conversion of Muslims to Sikhism. Under Guru Arjan Dev's influence also both Hindus and Muslims in large number became Sikhs. The rapid development of the Sikhs at this time, and the ever-growing influence of Guru Arjan Dev, annoyed Jahangir and the Qazis. Their annoyance was only natural. They aimed at converting all non-Muslims to Islam. But they found that under Guru Arjan Dev's influence, Muslims were giving up their own faith and embracing Sikhism. This they could never tolerate. It had to be checked. An end had to be put to Guru Arjan Dev's life and activities.
Emperor Jahangir came to the throne in October 1605. Guru Arjan Dev had been carring on his work since September 1581, that is, for over twenty-four years. He had achieved brilliant success. The Qazis and other fanatic Muslims were furious. They would sometimes, meet the Emperor and complain to him against the Guru. They said in Goindwal, which is on the bank of the river Beas in the Punjab, there is a religious teacher named (Guru) Arjan. He is looked upon as a holy saint. he has a great following. He preaches a religion which is opposed Islam. It is called Sikhism. He has become very popular. Not only Hindus, but even Muslims, are being charmed and captured by his ways, life and teachings. From all sides crowd of people Hindus and Muslims flock to him. They express devotion to him and faith in him. They give up their own religion and embrace the religion preached by him. Muslims in large numbers have become his followers or Sikhs. More and more are doing so every day. All this is happening in the empire of a Muslim Emperor. It is very sad and saddening. It is your duty to stop this. We appeal to you to do your duty towards Islam.
Jahangir, as a matter of fact, was of the same view. As he says in his Memories called Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, he had been having the same thoughts for many years. For many years, writes he, the thoughts had been coming into my mind that I should either put an end to his (Guru Arjan's) life and activities, or bring him into the fold of Islam. He assured the qazis and other that he would do this at the first suitable opportunity. Emperor Jahangir had thus clearly and finally made up his mind to convert or kill Guru Arjan Dev. He was on the look-out for a suitable chance and excuse to carry out that resolve. That chance came to him about six months after his having occupied the throne. he got the long-sought chance in the rebellion of his eldest son, Khusrau. He didn't want to miss it. He jumped at it. Prince Khusrau had been Akbar's favorite. Akbar had wished that Khusrau should be the Emperor after him. But Jahangir managed to seize the throne. Prince Khusrau rose in rebellion against his father but he was defeated. He fled towards Lahore pursued by Jahangir himself. During his march from Agra to Lahore, Jahangir made enquiries to find out who had helped or sympathized with his rebel son. He punished all those who were reported to have shown any interest in Khusrau. For example, Sheikh Nazam of Thanesar was reported to have prayed for Khusrau's success welfare. He was exiled and sent to Mecca.
Emperor Jahangir passed through the tract of the Majha. He even stopped at Goindwal, where the Guru was supposed to be residing at the time. He passed by Tarn Taran, where Guru Arjan Dev Ji was then actually staying. But no complaint reached his ears at these places about the Guru having helped Khusrau in any way. If the Guru had even met the rebel Prince, the fact would have been known to the Emperor's officials, qazis and others. They would not have failed to bring the matter to his notice. Moreover, the Guru had a number of enemies. they would have hurried eagerly to meet the Emperor to report against the Guru Arjan. but the Emperor received no report against Guru Arjan Dev anywhere, from official or non-official sources. All this clearly shows that Guru Arjan Dev Ji had not met or helped Khusrau. The Emperor reached Lahore without having received any report or complaint against Guru Arjan Dev. Khusrau was captured at the banks of the Chenab. He was brought to Lahore. His helpers and companions were all put to death. His eye lids were sewn up and he was imprisoned for life. About a month passed in this way. Even during this period, no report or complaint was received against Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
After having punished Khusrau and his friends, Jahangir got ready to leave Lahore. It was at that time that report was made to him against the Guru. It was reported that Guru had befriended the rebel Prince. Here is what the Emperor wrote about it in his Memoirs: ' At that time Khusrau crossed the river and passed that way (that is, by Goindwal). That foolish fellow resolved to secure the Guru's services. He encamped at that place where the Guru resided. He met him and talked of past affairs with him. With his finger he (Guru Arjan) made on the Prince's forehead a saffron mark called tilak. This mark is considered by the Hindus to be a sign of good luck. I fully knew of his kufar or false beliefs and false propaganda. When this matter was reported to me, I ordered that he should be brought into my presence, that his houses and children should be made over to Murtza Khan, that his property should be confiscated, and he should be put to death with torture.'
In accordance with these orders of the Emperor, his men went to Amritsar in order to arrest the Guru and take him to Lahore. On seeing Jahangir's men and learning from the object, the Sikhs became afraid and sad. they approached the Guru and said, 'O True King, when Sulhi Khan came to attack you, you prayed to God. Your prayer was accepted. Sulhi Khan fell from horse and was reduced to ashes in a kiln. Do the same now, O True King. Pray to God. He will accept your prayer. He will punish your enemies. He will save you.' The Guru replied, 'No, my dear Sikhs. Times are different now. My duty is different now. My prayer must also be different. Baba Nanak has said, "Those who are eager to follow my path of love, should be ever prepared to die most readily and joyously. They should first place their hands on their palms, and then enter the lane leading to my abode. Only those should enter this path who can part with their heads without the least hesitation or fear." 'I entered Baba Nanak's path knowing full well what was expected of me. Shall I be found wanting? I must not hesitate to die. Moreover, I have done no wrong to anybody. Jahangir has no case against me. I have never 'converted' any Muslim or Hindu. I have never asked or persuaded anyone to enter the Sikh fold. People came, they see and hear, and they accept the Faith. Why should the Emperor object? Why should he be angry? People should be free to choose their faith and form of worship. Different religions are really different paths leading to the Abode of God. But the Emperor is out to deny freedom of faith and worship to his subjects. That is not proper. I would like to change this. I shall let myself be tortured and killed. The story of my torture and of the manner in which I bear it will have a wholesome effect on the Emperor. He will change for the better, I hope.'
'Moreover, I have been telling people to accept even His bitterest Will with joy. I must practice what I teach and preach. I am glad that God is granting me an opportunity to do that. I must hail and accept it. The tale of my tortures will arouse the people. They will feel and urge to effect a change. It will fill them with a firm resolve to end the rule under which such things are made to happen. They will rise to assert their rights. My son, Guru Har Gobind, will arm them and train them to fight and die for their faith. I shall not die in vain. As for the torture it will affect my body not me. I shall not feel it. I shall be in his lap all the time. My dears, God has arranged all things well and wisely, and for the best benefit of His people. Why should I pray to Him to change His scheme of things? All will be for the good of my people. It will advance my people on the path laid down for them by Baba Nanak. My death will drive the first nail in the cruel Mughals' coffin. More, many more, will follow. So let me go. Get ready to become God's warriors, champions of truth and liberty, friends of men and foes of all tyrants. Be ready to fight for your faith and principles under the command of Guru Har Gobind. He has been specially trained to be a soldier. He will lead you to the victory. Cheer up, therefore, and let me go.'
The Sikhs bowed and said no more. the Guru then offered prayers at Har Mandir, the temple of God. He prayed for strength to bear everything without a groan or complaint. He then offered himself for arrest. Jahangir's men arrested him and took him to Lahore. Five Sikhs went with him. He forbade all others to accompany him. So, Jahangir gave orders that Guru Arjan Dev should be arrested and brought into his presence. But, he did not wait for the Guru's production before him. Having instructed his officers at Lahore how to treat the Guru, he left for Delhi. An official named Chandu took upon himself the work of killing the Guru by torture. This Chandu was a Khatri of Lahore, holding an office in Jahangir's court at Delhi. He had wanted to marry his daughter to Guru Arjan Dev's son, Sri Guru Har Gobind Sahib, but he had used insulting words against the Guru. The Sikhs of Delhi had heard these words. They had requested the Guru not to accept Chandu's offer. The Guru had conceded to their request. On this account Chandu had become a bitter enemy of the Guru. It was for this reason that he undertook to put the Guru to death by torture.
Chandu took the Guru to his house. There he began to torture him. During the first day and night, the Guru was kept without food and drink. He was not allowed to sleep. We have to remember that all this was taking place in mid-summer at Lahore, which is a very hot place. The Guru remained absorbed in meditation. He kept repeating God's Name all the time. On the second day, he was seated in a large vessel of water heated from below. The water was made to boil. The Guru sat in the boiling water, calmly meditating on God. Then, red-hot sand was poured over Guru's head and body. On the third day, he was seated on a red-hot iron plate which was being heated more and more with fire under it. And, again the hot sand was poured on his head and uncovered body. These tortures went on for four days. Several jogis and religious men, who had met and admired the Guru, went to him to express their sympathy and horror. Hazrat Mian Mir, the renowned Muslim saint of Lahore, also went for that purpose. He was struck with horror on seeing what was being done to the Guru. He cried aloud and shed bitter tears of anguish. Then he said to the Guru, ' You are gifted with immense spiritual powers. You are a true devotee of Almighty God. True devotees of God are as mighty as He. You possess the power to destroy those who are putting you to these tortures. Why don't you use those powers? Why do you helplessly bear these dreadful tortures? Surly, if you were to wish it, He would surely come, destroy the wicked people, and end your sufferings. If you do not want to use your powers, if you do not want to call upon God to come and save you, then permit me to do so. I am sure he will come, May I?"
Guru Arjan Dev replied, ' My dear friend, what you say is right. But I would not resort to miracle-working in order to save myself from suffering or death. Men of God never use their God-given powers for such purposes. I want to let things happen as He wills them to happen. I don't wish to interfere in the working of His will. I have been telling my Sikhs, "Remember Him in weal and woe, in pleasure and in pain. Accept as sweet and pleasant even His most bitter and painful Will. Regard all pleasure and pain, all joys and sorrows, as His sweet gifts." I am lucky, indeed, that God has granted me an opportunity to prove the truth of my words. In my heart of hearts I have prayed for such an opportunity. It has been given to me. I hail it and avail myself of it with utmost joy and thanks. I should not now like even God to take away this opportunity from me. By bearing all these tortures, I want to let the people see that what i teach can be put into practice too. That will strengthen them to bear, in the same manner, all that He may cause to happen. Hard times are coming. My people will be called upon to pass through extreme and severe sufferings for their faith. I wish to show how such sufferings have to be accepted and borne. I want to set an example to teachers and devotees the True Name and Truth. I want to teach them that they should not complain against God and His will. The true test of faith is the hour of misery. Without examples to guide them, ordinary persons' minds give way and are shaken in the midst of sufferings. My example will inspire and strengthen them.
'Secondly, a truly religious man should have the strength to suffer every form of torture for the sake of his faith. He should openly profess it, declare it, and stick to it, come what may. God has given me that strength. I must use it, so that weaker ones may take heart and follow my example. In the third place, the body is subject to pleasure and pain. The spirit is above these things. Hence, with His grace, I can rise above the torture imposed on my body. My spirit is absorbed in meditating on God. The body has to perish one day. I would not set aside this law of nature. Let His will be done. Let the body perish in the way He wills it to perish. His will is sweet. I am content and at peace. Don't worry my friend. All is well. Pray for me that I may be able to bear with calmness and joy all that He may be pleased to make me endure.' Mian Mir bowed to the Guru and took his leave. The Guru's body was full of blisters. It was rendered soft like boiled flesh. It became extremely weak. At last he was made to walk to the river Ravi. His five Sikhs were permitted to be with him on the way, to help and support him. To add to his tortures, Guru's blistered body was thrown into the cold water of the river Ravi. Guru's body was too weak to stand against the force of the fast-flowing stream. It was washed away to its final rest. The Guru's soul flew to the bosom of the All-loving Father of all.
Emperor Jahangir's orders were thus carried out. Guru Arjan Dev was 'killed by torture'. All the same, Guru Arjan Dev was not dead. He lives in the hearts of millions of his devoted followers and admirers. He lives in the hundred of sacred songs which he composed and embodied in the Sacred Guru Granth. He will live as long as the lofty principles and ideals preached and practiced by him are valued by mankind. He was one with God on earth; he is one with God in heaven now. He will live as long as God lives in the hearts of men. His death made him immortal. He will remain a source of ever-fresh inspiration to all who feel and urge for a life of the spirit; to all who yearn for such a world-order as was pictured and preached by Guru Arjan Dev, namely that of, 'enmity with none and friendship for all'. Guru Arjan Dev was martyred in May 1606, that is, seven months after Jahangir came to the throne. His words about the Guru quoted above were written by him on June 13,1606, that is, a fortnight after the Guru's martyrdom.
At the spot where the Guru's body was thrown into the river was later erected a Gurdwara. It is called Dehra Sahib. Before 'Partition' a big fair called Jor Mela, was annually held there to celebrate the Guru's martyrdom.