In view of the current debate about Guru Ji’s life and the years allegedly spent in solitude at Bakala, this week’s column gives edited quotes from author’s study, “Life & the Unique Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675)”. (see footnote)
Guru Hargobind ji passed the Guruship to Guru Har Rai, his grandson, the younger son of Baba Gurditta, before his demise on 3 March 1644. He also apprised Baba Tegh Bahadur, now 23 years old, of his mission to build-up Sikh organisation over the next few years. That was the need against a powerful empire which was keeping a watchful eye on the person who sat on Guru Nanak’s Gurgaddi. The rulers of Delhi were themselves encouraging disputes about the Gurgaddi as part of own tactics to divide the egalitarian revolutionary Sikhi movement.
Guru Hargobind’s own strategic response to the Mughal threat was to instruct Baba Tegh Bahadur to move to village Bakala. To quote Dr Harbans Singh, “Tegh Bahadur was now remote from the main seat of Sikhism, yet he carried with him the ambience in which he had grown…he was no recluse. He attended to family responsibilities. He went out riding and followed the chase. In the Sikh faith the temporal and the spiritual were not disjointed. This was amply attested in Guru Tegh Bahadur’s life.”
Baba Tegh Bahadur made Bakala his base for the next 20 years while he also spent many years on long preaching tours, especially from 1656, as requested by Nanak VII, Guru Har Rai (otherwise, his nephew by relationship). In fact these tours continued till his martyrdom in 1675 and were the most extensive after Guru Nanak Sahib. The network of Sangats was revived.
He had numerous visitors from Sangats (Sikh congregations) in India and abroad e.g. from places like Kabul, who came to meet the sant saroop (saintly) son of the great saint-warrior Guru Hargobind. Daily, he sat in Sangat and recited Gurbani. Sikh sources such as Twareekh Guru Khalsa and Mehma Prakash confirm an unobtrusive but active life during this period.
His brother-in-law, Kirpal Chand, was in Guru Har Rai’s army and often visited Bakala and kept Tegh Bahadur informed of the state of Sikh affairs. In turn, Baba Tegh Bahadur and his wife, Gujri, and mother Mata Nanaki, also went to Kiratpur to meet Guru Har Rai and other relatives. The communication remained continual and accorded with the mission entrusted to him by Guru Hargobind, till the time of his own Guruship and unique martyrdom.
The two Guruships of Guru Har Rai, Nanak VII, (Guruship 1644-1661) and Guru Har Krishan, Nanak VII, (Guruship 1661-1664) stabilised and consolidated the theo-political gains of Guru Hargobind while improving community welfare and other facilities. At the same time, (during those 20 years) fulfilling his mission, Baba Tegh Bahadur of Bakala, remained constantly available to serve Guru Nanak’s Jote residing in the successors of Guru Hargobind Sahib. Thus was laid the firm foundation for the emergence of the “Khalsa Akal Purakh ki Fauj”.
**Note: To be published by the Sikh Missionary Society UK. An electronic version is available on request for publication by other organisations.
Gurmukh Singh OBE