Commemorating the 400th Parkash Purab of Ninth Sikh Guru - Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib
Greatest humanitarian this world has ever seen. Nestled between a church and a masjid stands Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib in New Delhi. To an ordinary traveller in the city, this may not be the most well-known Gurdwara, but the place holds deep significance to the Sikh community. It was at the site of the Sis Ganj Gurdwara in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk where Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib who made the supreme sacrifice of his life to protect the faith and honour of the persecuted and the downtrodden , was beheaded in 1675. Another Gurudwara in Delhi, Rakab Ganj Sahib is the resting place of the ninth Guru of Sikhs — Guru Tegh Bahadur. Almost 300 odd years ago, this was the exact place that the dismembered body of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was cremated. There are multiple versions of how Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib eventually sacrificed his body , but almost all agree that his sacrifice was one of a kind, since he died for the Hindus. It is perhaps not imprudent to call him the greatest humanitarian this world has ever seen. As we celebrate the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, ninth Sikh master, on Thursday, only a few may know that he was the first martyr for human rights, who attained martyrdom for defending the rights of followers of a different faith to practice their faith. It was around a century before the popular quotation, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", attributed to French writer, deist and philosopher Voltaire, that the ninth master demonstrated it literally. Ironically, this statement became more popular in the world than its real demonstration, which preceded it a century ago in the Indian subcontinent. It was on April 01, 1621, ‘Guru Maharaj Pragat hoye’, in a family of revolutionaries, social activists and reformers, who sacrificed their lives for justice, equality, tolerance and oppression. It is obvious, that, he inherited the human rights genes from his elders. He travelled extensively throughout India to spread his mission of human rights. He preached divine virtues such as Compassion, Tolerance, Peace, Honesty, Share ( Charity), Helping the Needy (poor, sick, underprivileged), Sweetness in voice, Truth, Respect, Humility, Contentment, love, Kindness, and Brotherhood/ Sisterhood. Most importantly, he emphasized virtuous living. He raised awareness of people’s rights and inspired the downtrodden society to defend themselves against injustice, inequality, tyranny, oppression, and exploitation. Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib was undisputedly the first martyr for human rights. His martyrdom was unparalleled in world history as never before somebody had laid down life to defend the right of followers of another faith to practice their faith. The great Guru laid down his life at Chandni Chowk to uphold the right to religion of one’s choice and the right to dissent. At a philosophical level also, the great Guru has beautifully explained the idea of accepting death fearlessly and naturally in his hymns. His hymns can inspire even those in deep despair. He was rightly called Hind Di Chadar (saviour of Hindus and their faith). A contemporary of Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib had put the idea of his martyrdom in a few couplets -- Baanh Jinna Di Pakrie Sir Dije Baanh na chhodiye (If you take somebody under your protection, you may give your life but don't leave your asylum seeker) and Guru Teg Bahadur Bolia Dhar Paaiye Dharam Na chhodiye (Guru Teg Bahadur demonstrated even if you get entire earth, don't give up your faith). Walking in the footsteps of this great Guru Sikh bodies need to stand up for the release of all political prisoners in jails across Punjab, India and the world. All political prisoners -not just Sikhs. Civil rights activists and human rights defenders need to work with the government to provide succour, psychological and trauma relief to those in prisons, unable to handle the emotional and social stress as they are unable to meet their loved ones, nor able to attend court proceedings which could result in they being set at liberty. There is large scale stress on the families whose relatives are in prisons as they are unable to get information about their status and welfare. Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was an outspoken advocate for religious freedom and human rights. He fought, not only for the rights of Sikhs, but for the rights of everyone to live as they see fit. He encouraged his followers, and continues to encourage Sikhs today, to protect others and hold true to the faith at all times.In today world, scarred by religious fanaticism and intolerance Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib is truly a hero to be revered and emulated. We see people yelling themselves hoarse over extremely inconsequential matters and more importantly, in today’s time, religious freedom has become even more constricted and this is perhaps the best time to remember Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib The government of India along with DSGMC will celebrate the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur SahibSahibwith a two-day event at Red Fort. The PM will also release a commemorative coin and postage stamp on the occasion. Four hundred 'ragis' (Sikh musicians) will perform in a 'Shabad Kirtan' to mark the auspicious occasion. Let us celebrate the Gurupurab of Ninth Sikh Master - Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib by standing up for human rights of those who do not follow our philosophy, path or religion and for those who do not agree with our political thinking and share our financial status. Listen to the Sloka Mohalla Ninth from Guru Granth Sahib. It refers to death as a universal truth pre-ordained for all but teaches one how to live as a humanity-loving, God-fearing person.