Bhai Mati Das (Punjabi: ਭਾਈ ਮਤੀ ਦਾਸ) is one of the greatest martyrs in Sikh history. He along with his younger brother Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dyal Das, all disciples of the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621–1675), were executed along with him at the Kotwali (police-station) near the Sunehri Masjid in the Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi, under the express orders of emperor Aurangzeb.
Born to a Brahmin family of the Chhibber clan, Bhai Mati Das belonged to the village of Karyala, a stronghold of the Chhibbers, in the Jhelum District in Punjab (Pakistan), about ten kilometres from Chakwal on the road to the Katas Raj Temple Complex. The village stands on the top of the Surla hills. This part of the country is known as Dhani meaning rich. A few kilometres away are the Salt Mines and coal mines of Dandot. The Katas lake is beautiful.
His grandfather, Bhai Praga, had embraced the Sikh faith in the time of Guru Hargobind and had taken part in battles with the Mughal forces. His uncle Dargah Mall served Guru Har Rai and Guru Harkrishan as Diwan or manager of the household. Bhai Mati Das and his brother, Bhai Sati Das, assisted Dargah Mall in his work during Guru Tegh Bahadur's time. The former was himself appointed Diwan along with Dargah Mall who was by then considerably advanced in years.
Diwan Mati Das accompanied Guru Tegh Bahadur during his travels in the eastern parts in 1665-70. He was one of the companions of the Guru who were detained at Dhamtan in 1665 and then released from Delhi at the intervention of Kanvar Ram Singh, of Amber. In 1675, when the Guru set out from Anandpur for Delhi, Bhai Mati Das bravely faced certain death as he volunteered to accompany Guru Tegh Bahadur to Aurangzeb's Court to confront the Emperor over his threat of forcing the Pandits of Kashmir to convert to Islam or be killed. The Guru and his steadfast companions were arrested under imperial orders, and taken in chains to Delhi. Upon his refusal to forswear his faith, he was tortured to death. He was, on 24 November 1675, sawn in half, from his head - downwards.
Mati Das was the son of Hira Nand, a disciple of Guru Hargobind, under whom he had fought in many battles. He survived the Guru, and a little before his death he had entrusted his two sons, Mati Das and Sati Das to the care of Guru Har Rai, who had assured the dying man of his full attention and help. Both the lads remained attached to the Guru's family at Kiratpur. When Guru Harkrishan was summoned to Delhi by Aurangzeb, both the brothers, Mati Das and Sati Das, were present in his entourage along with Dyal Das and Gurditta, a descendant of Bhai Budha (different from Baba Gurditta, the son of Guru Hargobind, brother of Guru Teg Bahadur and father of Guru Har Rai).
On Guru Harkrishan's death at Delhi, these two brothers were included in the deputation of five men containing Dyal Das and Gurditta to declare the nomination of Teg Bahadur as the ninth Guru at the village of Bakala where the new Guru was then residing. The Guru was pleased to offer the two important portfolios of finance and home departments to Mati Das and Sati Das respectively. Both knew Persian well, and were quite familiar with the working of the Guru's durbar. The departmnent of household affairs was entrusted to Dyal Das.
The two brothers accompanied Guru Teg Bahadur during his journey to Assam. Guru Tegh Bahadur bought a hillock near the village of Makhowal five miles north of Kiratpur and established a new town, which he named as Anandpur (the abode of bliss). Mati Das and Sati Das were present at the foundation of Anandpur. The Guru's council of administration then consisted of Mati Das, Sati Das, Dyal Das and Gurditta. When the Guru was arrested and taken to Delhi, these four persons followed the Guru.
At Delhi, the Guru and his four companions were summoned into the council chamber of the Red Fort. The Guru was asked numerous questions on religion, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. It was suggested to the Guru that he should embrace Islam. On the Guru's emphatic refusal to reject his faith, he was asked why he was called Tegh Bahadur (gladiator or Knight of the Sword; before this, his name had been Tyag Mal).
Bhai Mati Das being sawn in half by musalmaan (muslims)
Bhai Mati Das immediately replied that the Guru had won the title by inflicting a heavy blow on the imperial forces at the young age of fourteen. He was reprimanded for his breach of etiquette and outspokenness. As Mati Das was a Brahmin, the Guru was asked why he had courted the company of such men when he did not believe in caste, and why he was defending the Brahmins of Kashmir.
The Guru replied that when a person became a Sikh, he lost his caste. As for the Kashmiri Pandits, it was his duty to raise his voice against cruelty and injustice. The Guru and his companions were ordered to be imprisoned and tortured until they agreed to embrace Islam.
After a few days, Guru Teg Bahadur and three of his companions were produced before the Qazi of the city. Gurditta had managed to escape. He remained in hiding in the city, and in spite of all the efforts of the Government, he could not be traced. The Qazi turned to Mati Das first and asked him to embrace Islam. He refused to do so. He was condemned to an instantaneous death.
The executioners were called and the Guru and all the three of his companions were made to sit at the place of the execution. Bhai Mati Das approached the Guru with folded hands and asked for his blessings, saying that he was happy to be the first to achieve martyrdom.
The Guru blessed him telling that they must resign themselves cheerfully to the will of the Lord. He praised him for his lifelong single-minded devotion to him and his cause. With tears in his eyes, he bade him farewell saying his sacrifice would occupy an abiding place in history. Mati Das touched the Guru's feet, embraced his friend and brother, and came to his place.
Mati Das while standing erect was tied between two posts. The Qazi, the Muslim priest, asked Bhai Mati Daas: "Accept Islam and you will receive all the happiness' and comforts of the world. We will give riches, as many wives as you wish and make you a courtier of the Mughal royal court."
Bhai Mati Daas replied: "And if I don't accept Islam then what will I face?"
"Then you will be faced with death! You will be sawn alive", said the Qazi.
Bhai Mati Daas said to the Qazi: "O Qazi I have tasted all of the world's happiness' and comforts. My family are well off, I have a wife, children and parents. I am healthy and experienced all the world has to offer me…" "…However I have not tasted the teeth of your beloved saw! I would rather taste the teeth of the executioner's saw than have all the comforts of the world."
The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the executioners to give a taste of the saw's teeth. The executioners placed the saw on top of Bhai Mati Daas' head and sawed downwards up to the length of four fingers.
Blood was pouring from the head. The hair was shining with bright red. The face was smothered with the colour of blood.
"You have tasted the teeth of the saw. Now tell me if you wish to accept Islam and have all the comforts and riches of the world or face death", asks the Qazi.
Bhai Mati Das replies, "I would rather face death and take on the teeth of the saw than be engulfed in the pain and misery which the comforts of the world bring." ‘Sir jaave ta jaave, par meri Sikhi sidak na jaave… if I have to die, so be it, but may my Sikh faith never go." [Sikh proverb]
The Qazi, executioners and the rest of the crowds were shocked at Bhai Mati Daas' decision.
The executioners ask, "What is your last request?"
Bhai Sahib says, "I don't have one but two requests! Firstly may my body be facing Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji, I never wish to turn my back to me Beloved Guru. Secondly I request you to execute me slowly. I wish to recite ‘Jap Ji Sahib'. So do not saw my tongue off until I utter: ‘jinni naam dhiaayiaa, gaye masakhat ghaal; naanak te mukh ujley kehtee chhutee naal.'' ‘Where the Holy people constantly vibrate on the Kirtan of the Praises of the Lord of the Universe, O Nanak - the Righteous Judge (Recorder of Karma) says, ""Do not approach that place, O Messenger of Death, or else neither you nor I shall escape [from God]!""' [Ang. 256]
The executioners were moved by this. "People usually ask us to hurry up the execution, so that they feel as little pain possible. We have never been requested to kill somebody slowly."
The saw was put on Bhai Mati Das's head. "Ik Onkar, Sat-naam, Karta Purkh, Nir-bhau, Nir-vair, Akaal Moorat, Ajooni, Sai-bhan, Gur-prasaad…" Bhai Mati Daas shows no sign of distress and continues to recite Jap Ji Sahib. Eventually the body split into two pieces.
Bhai Mati Daas never gave up Sikhi or the support of Gurbani when challenged with death. Bhai Mati Daas didn't merely utter Gurbani but, he lived Gurbani and put Guru Ji's Divine words into action.
Dyal Das abused the Emperor and his courtiers for this infernal act. He was tied up like a round bundle and thrown into a huge cauldron of boiling oil. He was roasted alive into a block of charcoal. Sati Das condemned these brutalities. He was hacked to pieces limb by limb. The Guru witnessed all this savagery with divine calm.
Mati Das, Dyal Das and Sati Das were tortured and executed on three consecutive days.
Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded by an executioner called Jalal-ud-din Jallad, who belonged to the town of Samana in present-day Haryana. The spot of the execution was under a banyan tree (the trunk of the tree and well near-by where he took a bath are still preserved), opposite the Sunheri Masjid near the Kotwali in Chandni Chowk where he was lodged as a prisoner, on November 11, 1675.
His head was carried by Bhai Jaita, a disciple of the Guru, to Anandpur where the nine-year old Guru Gobind Singh cremated it(The gurdwara at this spot is also called Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib).The body, before it could be quartered, was stolen under the cover of darkness by Lakhi Shah Vanjara, another disciple who carried it in a cart of hay and cremated it by burning his hut. At this spot, the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib stands today. Later on, the Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, was built at Chandni Chowk at the site of Guru's martyrdom.
In recognition of the devotion and supreme sacrifice made by Mati Das, Guru Teg Bahadur bestowed the title of Bhai on him. In course of time, all Chhibbers belonging to the village of Karyala adopted this title.
Bhai Mati Das occupies a premier position in the pantheon of Sikh martyrs.
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