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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Kashmiri Pandits

The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur has a multi-dimensional significance in the annals of Kashmir, especially for the survival of Kashmiri Pandits. Aurangzeb was very eager to convert India, “the land of the infidels into the land of the faithfuls”. The Brahmins preserved the Hindu religion and their wholesale conversion to Islam would have helped him in bringing the rest of the Hindus into Muslim fold. He thought of converting Brahmins to Islam because they form the core of the Hindu religious tradition. So he started persecuting them.

Guru Tegh Bahadur
Guru Tegh Bahadur

Picture Courtesy:
Koshur Samachar

Kashmiri Pandits were renowned for their learning and orthodoxy. When the Mughal emperor turned his eyes towards them, he encountered stiff resistance. During 49 years of his reign, Kashmir was administered by 14 governors. Iftikhar Khan was the most fanatic and bigoted of these. He ruled Kashmir from 1671 to 1675. He was using force ruthlessly to convert Pandits to Islam. Faced with an ultimatum, many of them began to flee Kashmir. Those who stayed back and refused to accept Islam were put to sword.

Some Kashmiri Pandits met under the leadership of Pandit Kripa Ram of Mattan and decided to go to the Swami Amarnath cave temple and invoke the mercy of Lord Shiva. At the holy cave temple, one of them saw Lord Shiva in a dream Who told him to go to Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of Sikhs, and ask for help to save the Hindu religion. He spoke to his companions about the revelation and they all decided to appeal him.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was a multi-faceted genius. He was a Prophet, a Saviour, a Mystic, a poet, a martyr and a great visionary. A visionary who could understand reality in its totality. He was saviour of the Hindus. He fought against fanaticism and championed the cause of religious freedom. He was one of the greatest liberator of mankind. His hymns gave a clear idea of his vision of life and have been a source of spiritual solace to millions of men and women. Mystics have a vision of life and the Guru was a mystic visionary as well as a revolutionary. He was a fearless man and an enlighted soul. He was a saint, a yogi, a soldier and a prince. He dressed like a prince, took part in hunting, participated in battles, but was basically a saint. He was a true yogi who led the life of a householder.He fought in self defence and when he deemed it fit, he laid down his life in defence of helpless Kashmiri Pandits.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was leading a secular movement and was immensely popular. He attracted large crowds wherever he went. Out of 11 years of his spiritual reign, he spent almost 8 years in traveling through Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. He visited almost all the places earlier visited by Guru Nanak Dev Ji to propagate the message of humanity. During his tour, he came across and exchanged views with Brahmins, Vaishnav saints, Sufis and all those who had been upset by Aurangzeb’s increasing oppression. The Guru came to be admired by them. He was all compassion for the suffering humanity and people flocked to him in large numbers. The Guru maintained an open kitchen. To serve the congregation the residents of the villages voluntarily collected food stuffs, milk and butter for Guru’s langer. It was his identification with the people and his love and compassion for them, which created the popular perception of the Guru as a hero who could come to the rescue of the down- trodden. They took him as their saviour. He became a source of spiritual solace for the suffering people and they saw in him their protector against tyranny. That is why the Kashmiri Pandits felt that he could help them and protect them from the tyrannical rule of Aurangzeb.

The Mughals ruled India for more than two hundred years. Earlier Muslim dynasties had very short span of life .The Khalji dynasty ruled for 30 years(1290-1321), the Tughlaq dynasty for 94 years(1321-1414), Sayyads for 37 years (1414-1451) and the Lodis ruled for 75 years. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb wanted to convert India-the land of ‘infidels’ into an Islamic country.He considered conversion to Islam as a part of his imperial policy.He demolished temples and humiliated Hindus. He tried to make the Mughal state a Muslim theocracy. In November 1665 he issued orders that Holi not be celeberated and in the same year Diwali was also banned. In 1668 Aurangzeb banned the holding of Hindu festivals in pilgrimage centers. In 1668 he banned music and dismissed musicians. Taxes were imposed on Hindus in almost every field. Pilgrim tax was imposed in 1679. Jizya was re-imposed in the same year. It was an attempt to humiliate the Hindu elite. Abu Talib was sent to the friendly state of Jaipur and he reported that he had demolished 66 temples at Amber. During his march to Deccan the emperor ordered the destruction of all the temples en-route. He celebrated his victory over Golkanda by destroying temples at Hyderabad. In 1692 he ordered that the temple at Rasulpur should be destroyed. Hiteshwar Mandir at Barnagar in Guujarat was destroyed in 1693. In 1696-97 temples at Sorath in Gujarat were demolished. He stopped the public worship of idols at Dwarka. Prominent Hindu temples demolished on orders from Aurangzeb; Lalita Temple at Delhi, Temples of Malirana(Jaipur),

Vishhvanath temple and Gopi Nath temple at Benaras in August 1669. Vallabhcharya temple at Mathura.At Surat the Brahmins were asked to pay a large sum of protection money. In 1707 Hindus

were not allowed to burn their dead on the banks of river Sabarmati at Ahmedabad. Fireworks of all kinds were prohibited as per Fatwa-e- Alamgiri. Almost the whole of the Muslim period in the history of India was a crusade against Hindu religion and culture.

In March 1671 a Muslim officer was sent to Ujjain to demolish Hindu temples. The Hindus of Ujjain rose in protest. They rioted and killed the officer and many of his soldiers. There were many other stray attempts by Hindus to resist the high handedness of the emperor. It was Shivaji who was the lone protector of Hinduism. He fought many battles and finally founded Maratha Empire.

The Hindu centers of pilgrimage were citadels of Hinduism. Aurangzeb focused his attention specially on Kashmir, Kuruksheta, Varanasi and Haridwar. He ordered that the Brahmins of these places should be brought into the fold of Islam. According to Macauliffe, ‘The Sikh Religion’ Vol. IV. P369.” The experiment of wholesale conversion was first tried in Kashmir. The Kashmiri Pandits were well known for their scholarship and converting them to Islam would encourage other Hindus to embrace Islam. Surrounded as they were with Muslim lands, they could be threatened with war and complete annihilation. The peaceful Kashmiris could not be expected to resist the Muslim military might. The emperor also felt that he might succeed in tempting the Brahmins from Kashmir into accepting Islam by promises of money and government appointments.” Koer Singh Kalal, the author of ‘Gurbilas Patshahi Das’, Chapter IV. Says that “there was piled up a heap of a maund and quarter of janeus (sacred threads) of the Hindus who had embraced Islam under the command of Iftikhar Khan. Many of the Brahmins who did not accept Islam under the threat of death managed to escape from Kashmir and under the guidance of Kirpa Ram, they reached the Darbar of Guru Tegh Bahadur.”

On May 25,1675, when 500 Brahmins from the valley led by Pandit Kripa Ram (a sanskrit teacher in Gobind Rai) came to Anandpur to narrate their story of repression and woes to Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Guru was moved by their entreaties and told them that their problem could be solved only if some soul of truthfulness and integrity offers himself for sacrifice. His son, Gobind Singh, who was at that time just nine years old, said; ”Who else can be more truthful and sublime than you! You alone can protect the Hindu religion. You alone are that graceful and sublime.” Guru Tegh Bahadur was delighted to hear the brave words of his son. He told the Kashmiri Pandits to go and tell the emperor that if he could be able to convert the Guru to Islam, they would gladly follow him. This resolve of the Guru and his ultimate sacrifice brought tremendous change in the body politic of India, leading in turn to the establishment of the Khalsa by his brave son Guru Gobind Singh, the decline of the Mughal supremacy and re-establishment of religious tolerance.

Malcolm writes in ‘Sketch of Sikhs, P.33’ ;” The Sikhs stung by a deep sense of injuries listened to the Guru with all the ardour of men commencing a military career of glory. They listened with rapture to a son glowing, with vengeance against the murderers of his father who taught a doctrine suited to his troubled state of mind, called upon his followers by every feeling of manhood, to lay aside their peacable habits, to graft the resolute courage of the solider on the enthusiasm of the devotee to swear eternal war with the cruel and haughty Mohammedans.”

On November 11, 1675, Guru Tegh Bahadur attained martyrdom at Chandi Chowk, Delhi. It is known as Gurdwara Sisgunj Sahib. Three of the Guru’s devotees, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala, had been tortured to death a day earlier on the very spot on which the Guru was martyred. Before these fearless followers of the Guru had their tryst with divinity, the Guru had blessed them and said,” All my blessings are with you --- my noble disciples. What greater joy and pride can I have than the thoughts that my dearest disciples were with me. “

Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom is an event of greatest importance in the evolution of the Indian ethos, especially the history of Kashmiri Pandits. In his supreme sacrifice can be perceived the triumph of the eternal glory of the Indian spiritual tradition.

Kashmiri Writers Chaman Lal Gadoo


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