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Torture Of Guru Arjan

In June 1606, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir ordered Guru Arjan be tortured and killed after the Guru refused to stop preaching his message of God as started by Guru Nanak.

According to some historical sources, it is said that Guru Arjan's 5 days of torture took place at Gurdwara Sri Lal Khooh Sahib (this was where Chandu Shah resided in Lahore) and the site of Gurdwara Sri Dera Sahib Lahore (nearby where the Ravi river flowed at the time).

Day 1 of Torture

Guru Arjan was not given anything to eat or drink. He was not allowed to sleep at night and was kept awake. He bore all this calmly. He remained immersed in Simran and repeated from his lips, "Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru..." and sang Shabads from the Gurbani.

Day 2 of Torture

On the following day, Chandu Shah made Guru Arjan sit in a large copper cauldron. He had his men fill the vessel with water and ordered a fire to be lit underneath it. The water began to get hot and after some time, the water began to boil. It scalded the Guru's body, but Guru Arjan sat calmly and quietly. He felt no pain, nor did he cry out or even sigh. He felt no anger against those who were torturing him.

Guru Arjan was given another opportunity to recant and comply with the demands of his enemies. He remained absorbed in the sweet remembrance of Waheguru and replied, "O fools, I shall never fear this treatment of yours. It is all according to God's will." On this occasion the Guru repeated the following;

ਮਾਰੂ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
maaroo mehlaa 5.
Maaroo, Fifth Mehl:

ਫੂਟੋ ਆਂਡਾ ਭਰਮ ਕਾ ਮਨਹਿ ਭਇਓ ਪਰਗਾਸੁ ॥
footo aaNdaa bharam kaa maneh bha-i-o pargaas.
The egg of doubt has burst; my mind has been enlightened.

ਕਾਟੀ ਬੇਰੀ ਪਗਹ ਤੇ ਗੁਰਿ ਕੀਨੀ ਬੰਦਿ ਖਲਾਸੁ ॥੧॥
kaatee bayree pagah tay gur keenee band khalaas. ||1||
The Guru has shattered the shackles on my feet, and has set me free. ||1||

ਆਵਣ ਜਾਣੁ ਰਹਿਓ ॥
aavan jaan rahi-o.
My coming and going in reincarnation is ended.

ਤਪਤ ਕੜਾਹਾ ਬੁਝਿ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਰਿ ਸੀਤਲ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੀਓ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
tapat karhaahaa bujh ga-i-aa gur seetal naam dee-o. ||1|| rahaa-o.
The boiling cauldron has cooled down; the Guru has blessed me with the cooling, soothing Naam, the Name of the Lord. ||1||Pause||

ਜਬ ਤੇ ਸਾਧੂ ਸੰਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਤਉ ਛੋਡਿ ਗਏ ਨਿਗਹਾਰ ॥
jab tay saaDhoo sang bha-i-aa ta-o chhod ga-ay nighaar.
Since I joined the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, those who were eyeing me have left.

ਜਿਸ ਕੀ ਅਟਕ ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਛੁਟੀ ਤਉ ਕਹਾ ਕਰੈ ਕੋਟਵਾਰ ॥੨॥
jis kee atak tis tay chhutee ta-o kahaa karai kotvaar. ||2||
The one who tied me up, has released me; what can the watchman of death do to me now? ||2||

ਚੂਕਾ ਭਾਰਾ ਕਰਮ ਕਾ ਹੋਏ ਨਿਹਕਰਮਾ ॥
chookaa bhaaraa karam kaa ho-ay nihkarmaa.
The load of my karma has been removed, and I am now free of karma.

ਸਾਗਰ ਤੇ ਕੰਢੈ ਚੜੇ ਗੁਰਿ ਕੀਨੇ ਧਰਮਾ ॥੩॥
saagar tay kandhai charhay gur keenay Dharmaa. ||3||
I have crossed the world-ocean, and reached the other shore; the Guru has blessed me with this dharma. ||3||

ਸਚੁ ਥਾਨੁ ਸਚੁ ਬੈਠਕਾ ਸਚੁ ਸੁਆਉ ਬਣਾਇਆ ॥
sach thaan sach baithkaa sach su-aa-o banaa-i-aa.
True is my place, and True is my seat; I have made Truth my life's purpose.

ਸਚੁ ਪੂੰਜੀ ਸਚੁ ਵਖਰੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਘਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੪॥੫॥੧੪॥
sach poonjee sach vakhro naanak ghar paa-i-aa. ||4||5||14||
True is my capital, and True is the merchandise, which Nanak has placed into the home of the heart. ||4||5||14||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Ang 1002

The boiling water made the Guru's flesh soft and his body blistered for the length of the torture.

Day 3 of Torture

On the third day, Chandu Shah ordered, "Heat red hot sand in iron pans. Seat the Guru in boiling water. Then pour the red hot sand on his head and body." The water boiled the Guru's flesh from below while the burning red hot sand burned the Guru's head and body from above. The persons engaged in torturing him were wet with sweat. They felt very uncomfortable because of the heat. It was the hottest summer month. But Guru Arjan kept calm and quiet. Again, the Guru felt no pain, nor did he cry out, sigh, or feel anger.

When Chandu threatened to put the Guru to further torture he addressed him as follows;

ਮਾਰੂ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ਘਰੁ ੨
Maaroo Mehalaa 5 Ghar 2
Maaroo, Fifth Mehl, Second House:

ੴ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
Ik Onkaar Satgur Prasaadh ||
One Universal Creator God. By the grace of the True Guru:

ਡਰਪੈ ਧਰਤਿ ਅਕਾਸੁ ਨਖ੍ਯ੍ਯਤ੍ਰਾ ਸਿਰ ਊਪਰਿ ਅਮਰੁ ਕਰਾਰਾ ॥
Darpai dharat akaas nakh-yataraa sir oopar amar karaaraa. ||
The earth, and the stars abide in the fear of God. The almighty order of the Lord is over the heads of all.

ਪਉਣੁ ਪਾਣੀ ਬੈਸੰਤਰੁ ਡਰਪੈ ਡਰਪੈ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੁ ਬਿਚਾਰਾ ॥੧॥
Pa-un paanee baisantar darpai darpai indar bichaaraa. ||1||
Wind, water and fire abide in the Fear of God; poor Indra abides in the fear of God as well. ||1||

ਏਕਾ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਬਾਤ ਸੁਨੀ ॥
Eaekaa nirbha-o baat sunee ||
I have heard one thing, that the One Lord alone is fearless.

ਸੋ ਸੁਖੀਆ ਸੋ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਜੋ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਗਾਇ ਗੁਨੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
So sukhee-aa so sadaa suhaylaa jo gur mil gaa-ay gunee. ||1|| rahaa-o ||
One alone is at peace, and one alone is embellished forever, who meets with the Guru, and sings the glorious praises of the Lord. ||1||Pause||

ਦੇਹਧਾਰ ਅਰੁ ਦੇਵਾ ਡਰਪਹਿ ਸਿਧ ਸਾਧਿਕ ਡਰਿ ਮੁਇਆ ॥
Ddayhdhaar ar dayvaa darpahi sidh saadhik dar mu-i-aa. ||
The embodied and the divine beings abide in the Fear of God. The Siddhas and seekers die in the fear of God.

ਲਖ ਚਉਰਾਸੀਹ ਮਰਿ ਮਰਿ ਜਨਮੇ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਜੋਨੀ ਜੋਇਆ ॥੨॥
Lakh cha-oraaseeh mar mar janmay fir fir jonee jo-i-aa. ||2||
The 8.4 millions species of beings die, and die again, and are born over and over again. They are consigned to reincarnation. ||2||

ਰਾਜਸੁ ਸਾਤਕੁ ਤਾਮਸੁ ਡਰਪਹਿ ਕੇਤੇ ਰੂਪ ਉਪਾਇਆ ॥
Raajas saatak taamas darpahi kaytay roop upaa-i-aa ||
Those who embody the energies of sattva-white light, raajas-red passion, and taamas-black darkness, abide in the Fear of God, along with the many created forms.

ਛਲ ਬਪੁਰੀ ਇਹ ਕਉਲਾ ਡਰਪੈ ਅਤਿ ਡਰਪੈ ਧਰਮ ਰਾਇਆ ॥੩॥
Chhal bapuree ih ka-ulaa darpai at darpai Dharam raa-i-aa. ||3||
This miserable deceiver maya abides in the fear of God; the righteous judge of dharma is utterly afraid of God as well. ||3||

ਸਗਲ ਸਮਗ੍ਰੀ ਡਰਹਿ ਬਿਆਪੀ ਬਿਨੁ ਡਰ ਕਰਣੈਹਾਰਾ ॥
Sagal samagree dareh bi-aapee bin dar karnaihaaraa ||
The entire expanse of the universe is in the Fear of God; only the Creator Lord is without this fear.

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤਨ ਕਾ ਸੰਗੀ ਭਗਤ ਸੋਹਹਿ ਦਰਬਾਰਾ ॥੪॥੧॥
Kaho naanak bhagtan kaa sangee bhagat soheh darbaaraa. ||4||1||
Says Nanak, God is the companion of God's devotees; God's devotees look beautiful in the court of the Lord. ||4||1||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Ang 998-999

Day 4 of Torture

On the fourth day, the Guru was made to sit on a plate of iron that was heated from below until it became red hot. Then, scalding hot sand was poured over his body. Guru Arjan sat calm and quite, without a cry or sigh, feeling no pain. He sat with his mind fixed on Waheguru, living the message of Gurbani as he accepted the will of Waheguru sweetly.

Several Jogis and religious men who had met the Guru and appreciated his sincerity and exalted doctrines, went to condole with him in his afflictions. Mian Mir, the muslim saint of Lahore,* also went and contributed his sympathetic tears. He found the Guru's body all blistered and suppurated, and requested his permission to appeal to the Emperor for his release and the punishment of his torturers. The Guru requested him to cast his eyes up above.

On doing so, it is said, Mian Mir saw spirits begging the Guru's permission to destroy the wicked, the proud, and the perverse. Mian Mir on beholding this supernatural vision asked the Guru why, when he possessed superhuman power, he consented to endure suffering at the hands of such vile sinners.

The Guru replied, "I bear all this torture to set an example to the teachers of the True Name, that they may not lose patience or rail at God in affliction. The true test of faith is the hour of misery. Without examples to guide ordinary people, minds quail in the midst of suffering."

Guru Arjan continued, "If one who has the power, within themselves, to defend their religion and does not do so. Then, what example will they provide to those happen to those who have no inner resilience when put to torture to abjure (renounce) their faith. It would be immoral of the one who could stand up but did not; and God would deem such an enemy of religion. The body is naturally subject to woe and weal, but not the spirit. The body is perishable, the soul imperishable."

On hearing this, Mian Mir departed commending the Guru's fortitude and singing his praises. The Guru's enemies again applied themselves to his torture They kept him seated in a caldron heated by a blazing fire for three hours. The Guru's human life was nearly gone, but he would not submit to Chandu Shah's conditions. The Guru repeated the following during the period of his torture;

ਸਿਰੀਰਾਗੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
Siree raag mehlaa 5.
Sri Raag, Fifth Mehl:

ਜਾ ਕਉ ਮੁਸਕਲੁ ਅਤਿ ਬਣੈ ਢੋਈ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਦੇਇ ॥
jaa ka-o muskal at banai dho-ee ko-ay na day-ay.
When you are confronted with terrible hardships, and no one offers you any support,

ਲਾਗੂ ਹੋਏ ਦੁਸਮਨਾ ਸਾਕ ਭਿ ਭਜਿ ਖਲੇ ॥
laagoo ho-ay dusmanaa saak bhe bhaj khalay.
when your friends turn into enemies, and even your relatives have deserted you,

ਸਭੋ ਭਜੈ ਆਸਰਾ ਚੁਕੈ ਸਭੁ ਅਸਰਾਉ ॥
sabho bhajai aasraa chukai sabh asraa-o.
and when all support has given way, and all hope has been lost -

ਚਿਤਿ ਆਵੈ ਓਸੁ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਲਗੈ ਨ ਤਤੀ ਵਾਉ ॥੧॥
chit aavai os paarbarahm lagai na tatee vaa-o. ||1||
if you then come to remember the Supreme Lord God, even the hot wind shall not touch you. ||1||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Ang 70

Note, there are 7 verses to the above shabad in the Guru Granth Sahib.

A daughter-in-law of Chandu, the daughter of a pious Sikh, who had heard of the Guru's torture, considered what she could do to save the one who her father respected so much, and from whom had obtained happiness. She said to herself, "The Guru has eaten nothing, he has not had a drink of water or slept for several days. My life in this house is cursed when I hear of the Guru's torture."

She prepared some sharbat and took it in the dead of night secretly to the Guru's prison. When stopped by the sentry on guard, she drew forth a piece of jewellery and gave it to him. He allowed her to pass with strict injunctions to return quickly. She told the Guru who she was, "Recognize me as the daughter of a Sikh of yours. I am wife of the sinner's (Chandu's) son, but I never should to have been married to him. I must have committed some great sin in a previous existence, and this is the result of it. Thats why I don't want to live any longer. Take this sharbat and also eat something. Look on me as thy slave, and have pity on me."

The Guru replied, "You have a lot of devotion and have only a short while to live. You can accompany me when the time comes. Keep your secret to yourself. Unfortunately, I cannot take food or drink from Chandu's house." On hearing this, the lady begged Guru Arjan to take her as his companion to the unknown world. Chandu was planning further torture for Guru Arjan during the night. He said to himself, "The Guru does not show pain under ordinary torture, I will think of another way to make him suffer."

Day 5 of Torture

On the fifth day, Chandu Shah thought to suffocate Guru Arjan in a fresh cowhide, in which he was to be sewn up. The Guru suffered from 'heat apoplexy.' Sewing up political prisoners in fresh hides of animals seems to have been a general practice at the time. A month earlier two main supporters of Prince Khusrau had been treated similarly. Instead the Guru asked for a bath in the Ravi River which flowed along the walls of the city of Lahore.

Chandu reveled at the thought that the Guru's body, full of blisters, would undergo greater pain when dipped in cold water and so he permitted him to bathe in the river. Chandu also thought perhaps the cold water may cause the Guru to re-consider his position. Chandu sent Guru Arjan with an escort of soldiers armed with swords and matchlocks. He ordered them to keep a close watch on the Guru. They were not to speak to any one on the way should they should reveal the Guru's sufferings.

They also received orders not to allow the Guru to make any detour, but proceed straight on, and not to stop before he had arrived at the bank of the river. While the Guru was bathing and subsequently drying himself, the soldiers were not to address him or interrupt him in any way. They were then to return with him and keep him and his Sikhs in front of them so that he might not escape. Guru Arjan looked at Sikhs, and still forbade any action and said;

ਗੁਰੁ ਮੇਰੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਸਦਾ ਹੈ ਨਾਲੇ ॥
gur mayrai sang sadaa hai naalay.
My Guru is always with me, near at hand.

ਸਿਮਰਿ ਸਿਮਰਿ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਦਾ ਸਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਲੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
simar simar tis sadaa samHaalay. ||1|| rahaa-o.
Praying, praying in remembrance on God, I cherish God forever. ||1||Pause||

ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ ॥
tayraa kee-aa meethaa laagai.
Your actions seem so sweet to me.

ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥੨॥੪੨॥੯੩॥
har naam padaarath naanak maaNgai. ||2||42||93||
Nanak begs for the treasure of the Naam, the name of the Lord. ||2||42||93||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Aasaa, Ang 394

The Guru enveloped himself in a long sheet and set forth. The whole of his body was blistered, and the soles of his feet sore and festered. Guru Arjan walked in pain and proceeded carefully. Several people bowed as he passed. The bystanders were astonished on seeing him weak from hunger and suffering, and said, "In what state is the Guru travelling!" His mind however appeared collected and fixed on divine meditation as in his earlier and happier days. His devotion like a mountain which could not be moved was in no way affected by his bodily pain.

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