Guru Tegh Bahadur is worshipped as the ninth of the ten gurus revered in the Sikh culture. Following the footsteps of the eighth Nanak Guru Har Krishan, Tegh Bahadur became a guru on April 16, 1664, and was known as the Srisht-di-Chadar (protector of humanity). A poet, thinker and warrior, he is believed to have carried forward the teachings and knowledge of Guru Nanak Dev and the subsequent gurus. He wrote on various topics circling human attachments, body, mind, nature of God, death, deliverance and these are registered in the form of 116 poetic hymns in the sacred scriptures of the holy book – Guru Granth Sahib.
To spread the messages of Sikhism, the guru travelled across India and set up umpteen preaching centres. He is known to have founded the town of Chak-Nanki in Punjab, which was later expanded by the tenth Nanak Guru Gobind Singh into the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib. Born in a humble Sodhi Khatri family, Tegh Bahadur was brought up in Sikh culture and was trained in archery and horsemanship. Originally named Tyag Mal, he was later renamed Tegh Bahadur after he fought bravely against the Mughal forces.
Interestingly, the Sikh tradition has a legend as to how the guru was selected. According to the legend, a wealthy trader going by the name of Baba Makhan Shah Labana had once prayed for his life and promised to gift 500 gold coins to the Sikh guru if he survived. Once recovered, he decided to fulfill his promise and went in search of the ninth guru. However, he went on to different gurus with two gold coins, as he believed that the right guru would know his silent promise of 500 coins. Every guru accepted the offering but once he gifted Tegh Bahadur the usual offering, the guru remarked that the offering was considerably short of the promised five hundred. It is then that Labana began shouting from the rooftop, “Guru ladho re, Guru ladho re” which meant — “I have found the Guru”.
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s breathed his last when he was executed at Delhi in 1675. The orders were given by mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The Sikh movement was growing in the regions of Punjab and the guru was encouraging people to “be fearless in their pursuit of just society”. “He who holds none in fear, nor is afraid of anyone, is acknowledged as a man of true wisdom,” is a statement recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib. As per Sikh historians, it is believed that Tegh Bahadur had posed a socio-political challenge to the Muslim rule and the emperor Aurangzeb.
In remembrance of the sacrifice made by Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Nanak is worshipped in the Sikh culture and November 24 is celebrated as the Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Martyrdom Day.