Updated 8:04 am, Apr 28, 2021

Did Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib meditate in a bhora (basement)? -Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer | SNE

By  SNE Guest Columnist Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer .
Apr 10, 2017

Gurudwara Bhora Sahib, Baba Bakala-www.sikhzone.net

The writers who did not have access to the sources recording the facts of the life of (Guru) Tegh Bahadur for the period of 1656 and 1664 (and even from 1644 to 1656) wrote that during all this time he had been meditating in a bhora (basement) at Bakala. Instead of getting information about the Guru’s activities, they resorted to concoct a story which is not in consonance with Sikhism. Mediation in recluse and samadhi etc have nothing to do with Sikhism. There is no concept of such meditation (by penancing one’s body), wandering in forests or sitting in basements and so-called sanyas etc. Guru Granth Sahib rejects it out rightly:

What for meditation, what for austerities, disciplines;
What for fasting and what for bath (at sacred places)?
Till we do not know the method of loving devotion for God; [1]
O! My mind, you are not holding (listening) the teachings of Guru.
Where are you wandering with shaven head and ochre colour dress.
Leaving truth, you are busy in lies, you are losing your life, in vain.
Doing lot of pretentions, you fill your stomach, then you sleep like an animal.[2]
Why you go to forests for searching Him?
All pervading is ever detached, yet He is merging in you.
He is living like fragrance in flower, and reflection in mirror.
Thus God pervades all, O! Brother, find Him from within your body.
Outside and inside is same One, this is what Guru has taught.
Nanak says: Without knowing self, the fungus of mind is not cured.[3]
The yogis, ascetics and renouncers;
Its net has caught all of them. [4]

These writers narrated that the Guru was sitting in a basement and ‘meditating’ for 12 years (some writers mention this period as 20 years and some mention it even longer). In fact, where these writers could not get information about the Guru’s activities, they concocted stories hence such wrong information, not only in this case but in case of the other Gurus too. Thus, this is how these writers converted the period of (Guru) Tegh Bahadur’s missionary journey into an un-Sikh so-called ‘meditation’. In fact, the Guru was preaching Sikh mission in Assam, Bengal and Bihar etc for several years.
(Guru) Tegh Bahadur spent early years of his life at Amritsar. Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Singha Purohit and some others were among his teachers who gave him a lot of education of language, literature, philosophy and Gurbani. Not only academic knowledge he was a well trained soldier too; he had got martial training from Bhai Bidhi Chand, Bhai Jetha, Bhai Langah, Bhai Paraga etc. Thus, in the teens of his age he had become a great intellectual, soldier and philosopher; and, soon it was known to the Sikh world that Guru Hargobind Sahib’s son Tegh Bahadur was a marvellous young man. This news reached Bhai Lal Chand Subhikhi too; he used to live in Lakhnaur village (near Ambala) and also had a house at Kartarpur Jalandhar district). One day, Lal Chand Subhikhi’s wife went to Mata Nanaki and proposed the marriage of her daughter, Gujri with the young Tegh Bahadur. Mata Nanaki discussed it with Guru Hargobind Sahib who talked to Tegh Bahadur and accepted this relationship; and, pretty, sober, good-mannered Gujri was married to Tegh Bahadur on the 14th of February 1633, at Kartarpur. This marriage was attended by Baba Buddha, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Ballu, Bhai Dariya Parmar, Bhai Padma Chauhan, Aru Ram Dutt, Bhai Keerat Bhatt, Bhai Singha Purohit, Bhai Jetha, Bhai Sukhia Mandan and several other courtiers of Guru Sahib; the city of Kartarpur had never seen such a marriage, which so many great personalities had attended. After his marriage Tegh Bahadur again moved to Guru-Da-Chakk (Amritsar).
Tegh Bahadur was a brave young man and a fine soldier; He had participated in at least two battles: on 13th of April 1634, when the Mughal forces attacked Guru-Da-Chakk and second at Kartarpur (on April 26-28, 1635), and possibly the battle at Mehraj (16-17.12.1634) too..
After the battle of Kartarpur, Guru Hargobind moved to Keeratpur Sahib; Tegh Bahadur too joined his father and stayed there for more than nine years, till the death of his father (from May 1635 to March 1644). Here, he used to participate in all the activities of the court of the Guru; he would serve the Sikh sangat and also perform katha (exegesis) of Gurbani and Sikh history.
Bakala was his second headquarters; his maternal grandfather Hari Chand Lamb and grandmother Har Deyi loved him so much that they would wish him to make long stays at Bakala; here too, he used to perform exegesis of Gurbani. When his father, Guru Hargobind passed away (on March 3, 1644), he (Guru Tegh Bahadur) and his mother Mata Nanaki were at Bakala; as soon as they received the news they rushed to Keeratpur and joined prayers. Before his death, Guru Hargobind had installed his grandson Har Rai as the Seventh Guru. (Guru) Tegh Bahadur spent a few days at Keeratpur and then returned to Bakala again; his mother (Mata) Nanaki and wife (Mata) Gujri too joined him. The Sikhs of Afghanistan, Pothohar and Nakka (land between rivers Raavi and Jhanan/ Chenab) area, on their way to Keeratpur, used to make a stop-over at Bakala and join congregation to listen to his discourses. He himself too would visit some areas and hold congregations; he made a few visits to Keeratpur, Kartarpur and Guru-Da-Chakk; thus during all these years (1644 to 1656) Bakala remained second headquarter of the Sikhs.
First long missionary journey of eastern lands (Assam, Bihar etc):
In May end 1656, Guru Tegh Bahadur went to Keeratpur Sahib. During his stay there, a large number of Sikhs from Assam, Bengal, Bihar and the Paryag-Kashi area too came there to pay obeisance to Guru Har Rai. Before going back to their homes they requested the Guru to make a visit to their area too. Guru Sahib told them that a very large number of Sikhs visited Keeratpur regularly and if he went for a tour of the eastern lands, the visiting Sikhs will become frustrated for not being able to see him; he suggested that it could be planned at least one year in advance during which the Sikhs will get information about his absence for a specified period and they won’t visit Keeratpur during that time. He, however, asked (Guru) Tegh Bahadur Sahib if he could oblige them; (Guru) Tegh Bahadur discussed the issue with his family and then gave his approval. He left Keeratpur for the eastern lands on June 8-9, 1656; he was accompanied by a large number of prominent Sikhs; an entry regarding this journey had been recorded in Bhatt Vahis:
“Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, son of Guru Hargobind Ji Mahal (Guru) sixth, grandson of Guru Arjan, Sodhi Khatri, resident of Keeratpur, Pargana Kehlur, left for missionary journey, on 1713 Sammat (Bikrami), Haarh 17. He was accompanied by (his) mother Mata Nanaki Ji, wife of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, Mata Neti (Ananti) wife of Guru Gurditta Ji, Mata Hari Ji wife of Guru Suraj Mall Ji, Bawa Baalu Hasna and Bawa Almast, the followers of Guru Gurditta, Mata Gujri Ji wife Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, Kirpal Chand son of Lal Chand Subhikhi, Diwan Dargah Mall son of Dwarka Das Chhiber Brahmin, Sadhu Ram son of Dharam Chand Khosla, Durga Das son of Mul Chand Jalhana Puar (Parmar), Dyal Das son of Mai Das Puar Balunt, Chaupati Rai son of Pairha Ram Chhiber and other Sikh faqirs.” Bhatt Vahi Talaunda, Pargana Jind. (Note: the Bhatts used the word Guru for all the male members of the Guru families). [non-italic words are mine– auth
This Jatha left Keeratpur and took route of the highway (the then G.T. Road) towards Paryag (now Allahabad). Their first stop-over was the village Malikpur Rangharhan (now Malikpur) about six km before Rupar (now Ropar) where he stayed with the family of Bhai Nigahia; from here they went to Kotla Nihang Khan and greeted the Pathan chief of the area and then moved towards Ambala; they spent the next few days at Lakhnaur with the in-laws of the Guru; here, the Guru held several congregations in different villages and preached Sikh mission. (Guru) Tegh Bahadur toured this area extensively and for a couple of months he preached in the villages between Ambala and Kurukshetra. After a few congregations in Kurukshetra the Guru moved towards Kankhal and Hardwar; between Kurukshetra and Hardwar, the Guru visited several villages and finally reached Hardwar in the last week of March 1657; an entry of one of his congregation at Hardwar has been recorded for the 29th of March 1657. Here, the Guru held several congregations and also visited adjoining villages; the Guru spent several months between the area of Hardwar, Agra and Paryag (Allahabad); an entry of his congregation in Paryag has been recorded for the 4th of April 1661:
“Guru Tegh Bahadur ji son of Guru Hargobind ji came to Banaras in 1718 (Bikrami), on Haarh sudi fifth, accompanied by Mata Nanaki mother Guru Tegh bahadur ji, Mata Hari ji wife of Guru Suraj Mal, Kirpal Chand son of Lal Chand Subhikhi, Bawa Dial Das son of Mai Das Jalhana, Gawal Das son of Chhute Mal Chhiber, Chaupat Rai son of Paira Chhiber, Sangat son of Binna Uppal, Sadhu son of Dharma Khosla.” (Bhat Vahi Purabi Dakhani). [non-italic words are mine – author].

During this tour hundreds joined Sikh faith. (Guru) Tegh Bahadur’s next centres of missionary activities were Paryag, Mirzapur and the villages around these two major towns; he spent about one year in this area; he reached Kashi (Banaras, Varanasi) on the 21st of June 1661. According to an entry in the Bhatt Vahis:
“Guru Tegh Bahadur ji son of Guru Hargobind ji came from Patna to console the death of Guru Har Rai, in 1719 (Bikrami), on dark day five of Magh they reached Paryag Sangam; he was accompanied by Mata Nanaki mother Guru Tegh bahadur ji, Mata Hari ji wife of Guru Suraj Mal, Diwan Dargah Mal son of Dawarka Das Chhiber and other Sikh faqirs.” (Bhatt Vahi Purabi Dakhani, account of Barhtiayas). [non-italic words are mine – author].
After a few days’ stay at Kashi, he proceeded towards Gaya and then Patna; he reached Patna in the beginning of July 1661; the residence of Bhai Jait Ram Seth was his headquarters at Patna. He left his wife (who was pregnant at that time) and other female members, Bhai Chaupati Rai as well as some other attendants at Patna and himself set out for another missionary journey; this time in the acountry of of Bengal, Ahom and Kamrup (now, both are part of Assam).
During this time (Mata) Gujri gave birth to a son, Gobind Das (some writers mention Gobind Rai); on the 18th of December 1661 (some writers have mentioned the date as 1666). An entry in a Bhatt Vahi clearly mentions this date and the name of the Guru:
“Guru Gobind Das son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, mahal (Guru) ninth, grandson of Guru Hargobind, Sodhi Khatri, resident of Patna city on the bank of river Jamuna, was born on the early morning of Wednesday, Pokh sudi 7, of the (Bikrami) sammat seventeen hundred eighteen (i.e 1661 C.E.). Mata Nanaki distribted gifts to the poor and the needy; in the evening (earthen) lamps were lighted; there was great hustle and bustle; there was no end (to jubilations)…” {Bhatt Vahi Purabi Dakhani}. (non-italic words, & stress on the word Das, is mine – author].
The families of Seth Jait Ram and Fateh Shah Maini served Mata Gujri and Gobind Das with love and devotion. Guru Tegh Bahadur got the news of the birth of his son much later, when he was in Assam zone.
Guru Har Rai passes away appointing Guru Harkrishan as successor
When (Guru) Tegh Bahadur was touring the area of eastern lands, during 1656-1664, Guru Har Rai passed away on the 6th of October 1661 after appointing Harkrishan as Guru. (Guru) Tegh Bahadur got this news much later in May 1662, and he started preparations for return journey.
He began his journey in October 1662; at that time Gobind Das was only ten months old; so, Guru Tegh Bahadur left Mata Gujri and Gobind Das in the care of his brother-in-law Kirpal Chand and baby-sit Chaupati Rai; and with the rest of the Jatha, he left Patna for Madar Des (Punjab). Mata Nanaki Mata Hari, Mata Ananti, Sadhu Ram Khosla, Dargah Mall, Dial Das and other were also alongwith him. It took them more than two months to reach Paryag, on the 3rd of January 1663; here, the local Sikhs requested the Guru to spend some time with them; the Guru spent a couple of months at Paryag and then began his journey towards Delhi.
When he reached Agra, the local Sikhs arranged several congregations; in the meanwhile, Sikhs from adjoining areas too visited the Guru and it took him another couple of months to re-start his journey. He reached Delhi on the 21st of March 1664 where he was welcomed by Bhai Bagha (grandson of Bhai Kalyana) and his son Nanu Ram (Dilwali). Here, he came to know that Guru Harkrishan also had reached Delhi; the same day Ram Rai (elder brother of Guru Harkrishan) visited him and tried to instigate (Guru) Tegh Bahadur saying “Guru Har Rai has done wrong in appointing Harkrishan as the eighth Guru. This was in fact your right.” At this (Guru) Tegh Bahadur answered, “Guru Har Rai did what he thought right; we have no right to comment upon his decision.” When Ram Rai found that (Guru) Tegh Bahadur could not be instigated or provoked, he left the place and left himself to the mercy of Aurangzeb.
When he was gone, Bhai Bagha told the Guru that it was Ram Rai on whose petition Aurangzeb had summoned Guru Harkrishan. At this Guru Tegh Bahadur decided to meet Guru Harkrishan before leaving for the Punjab. The next day he met Guru Harkrishan; he stayed there for two days and then began his journey towards Bakala on the 24th of March 1664.[5] On his way to Bakala, he visited Mallah village and met his sister Bibi Veero. After a stay of a couple of days, the Guru proceeded towards Sultanpur and then went to Bakala.
Assuming the charge of the Sikh mission
Guru Harkrishan died on the 30th of March 1664 at Delhi and before his death he appointed Tegh Bahadur as the Ninth Guru. After the cremation of Guru Harkrishan the family and the prominent courtiers of the Guru sent a message to (Guru) Tegh Bahadur to formally take the charge of Gurgaddi (Sikh mission). During this period the Sikhs from far and wide continued visiting Keeratpur but Guru Tegh Bahadur was still at Bakala.
The Sikh courtiers went to Bakala on the 11th of August 1664 and performed ardas for Guru Tegh Bahadur’s assuming of formal charge of the Sikh mission. An entry in the Bhatt Vahis mentions this event:
“Diwan Dargah Mall son of Dwarka Das grandson of Paraga; Chaupati Rai son of Pairha, grandson of Gautam Chhiber Brahmin; Jetha son of Mai Das, Mani Ram son of Mai Das Balunt Jalhanas; Jaggu son of Padma grandson of Kaula Hajavat Aambiana; Nanu son of Bagha grandson of Umeda came along Mata Sulakkhani, mother of Mahal (Guru) eighth, to Bakala from Delhi. Year 1721 (Bikrami Sammat), Massiya day of Bhadva month…”[6] [non-italic words are mine – author].
On this day the prayer was made by Baba Dwarka Das son of Baba Arjani, grandson of Baba Mohri and great-grandson of Guru Amar Das Sahib.
After assuming gurgaddi (charge of Sikh mission), Guru Tegh Bahadur’s first visit was to Keeratpur Sahib; he had not been to Keeratpur, the headquarters of the Sikh Panth, for more than eight years, since June 1656 when he had left for his long missionary journey. During this period Guru Har Rai had passed away; his daughter Bibi Rup Kaur had got married (and she had been living with her husband at Kalyanpur, a village adjoining Keeratpur). Guru Tegh Bahadur went to her residence and shared memories of her father (Guru Har Rai Sahib) and brother (Guru Harkrishan Sahib). This visit of the 21st of August 1664 has been recorded in the Bhatt Vahis:
“Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji Mahal (Guru) ninth, came from Bakala to Keeratpur, pargana Kehlur, to console (her for the death of her father and brother) Bibi Rup Kaur wife of Khem Karan Dhussa Khatri, in the year 1721 (Bikrami) Bhadva sudi ten. He was accompanied by Dwarka Das son of Arjani Sahib Bhalla, Diwan Dargah Mall son of Dwarka Das Chhibber, Jaggu son of Padma Hajavat Ambiana.”[7]

[non-italic words are mine – author].

Visit by Makhan Shah Lubana
In 1664, the Hindus were celebrating Diwali on the 9th of October. By then, Guru Tegh Bahadur had returned to Bakala. Bhai Makhan Shah Lubana’s forefathers had been committed to the Sikh Panth since long time; they used to visit Keeratpur every year. This time they got the message that after the departure of Guru Harkrishan Sahib, his successor the ninth Guru had chosen to stay at Bakala; so, he along with his wife and sons reached Bakala. As soon as he entered the village an agent of Dhir Mall approached him and took him to Dhir Mall; Makhan Shah had not seen Guru Tegh Bahadur so he placed five gold mohars (coins) before Dhir mall and paid obeisance; Dhir Mall picked up the mohars and put them into his pocket; at this Makhan Shah thought that he cannot be the Guru; so, he asked, ‘Are you Guru Tegh Bahadur?’ His servant replied, ‘No, he is Guru Dhir Mall.’ Hearing this, Makhan Shah, without making any comments, left the place and began looking for Guru Tegh Bahadur; someone told him that Tegh Bahadur lived in the basement of a house; he went to that building and someone pointed out to the room where the Guru was staying. Makhan Shah and his family went there; and this time too he placed five mohars before the Guru. At this, he (Guru) said, “Makhan Shah you have been contributing one hundred mohars every year but this time only five; hearing this he placed all the mohars in front of the Guru, and paid obeisance once more; he immediately went out and climbed the roof of the house and began saying loudly: ‘Gur Ladho Ray’ (I have found the Guru); at this all his companions and the other Sikhs flocked to that place and paid obeisance to the Guru. (Since that day the Lubana clan began observing the 9th of October as Gur Ladho day).
This incident has been recorded by the scribes of Bhatt Vahis:
“Makhan Shah son of Dasa, grandson of Artha, great-grandson of Binna, family of (Baba) Bahoru. Lal Chand son of Makhan Shah, Chandu Lal son of Makhan Shah, Kushal Chand son of Makhan Shah, Soljaee wife of Makhan Shah, caste Pelia Banjara, resident of Mota Tanda, pargana Muzaffarabad, Kashmir, came to Bakala town on 1721 (Bikrami calendar) on (Hindu) Diwali day, Saturday. He presented one hundred mohars in the court of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth mahal (Guru). Dhumma son of Naik Kahna Binjalunt also came with him.”[8]
[non-italic words are mine – author].
From this, some Brahmanic writers concocted a story of miracle. They preached that once Makhan Shah’s ship was sinking in the seas (which seas?) and he made prayer to the Guru; hearing his prayer, Guru Tegh Bahadur put his shoulder under the ship and brought it to the shore. This Brahmanic writer even wrote that the Guru’s shoulder was badly wounded while saving the ship (it means that the Guru pushed the ship physically as Hercules. Why could he not do it just by miracle?). Such hagiographic stories had been concocted by Brahmanic writes so that Sikh history too should become like the works of fiction (Ramayana and Mahabharata).
Second visit to Keeratpur:
Mata Bassi, wife of Baba Gurditta, mother of Guru Har Rai, grandmother of Guru Harkrishan and Bibi Rup Kaur died on the 29th of September 1664; prayers for her were to be made on the 14th of October. Guru Tegh Bahadur, Makhan Shah Lubana, Diwan Dargah Mall and others left Bakala on the 10th of October and reached Keeratpur on the 14th; they stayed there for three days.[9]

Foot notes:
[1] ki-aa jap ki-aa tap saⁿjamo ki-aa barat ki-aa isnaan.
jab lag jugat na jaanee-ai bhaa-o bhagat bhagvaan.
sampai daykh na harkhee-ai bipat daykh na ro-ay.
(Guru Granth Sahib, p. 337)
[2] man ray gahi-o na gur updays.
kahaa bha-i-o ja-o mood mudaa-i-o bhagva-o keeno bhays.
saach chhaad kai jhooṭah laagi-o janam akaarath kho-i-o.
kar parpaⁿch udar nij pokhi-o pas kee ni-aa-ee so-i-o.
(Guru Granth Sahib, page 633).
[3] kaahay ray ban khojan jaa-ee.
sarab nivaasee sadaa alaypaa tohee saⁿg samaa-ee.
puhap madh ji-o baas basat hai mukar maahi jaisay chhaa-ee.
taisay hee har basay niraⁿtar ghat hee khojahu bhaa-ee.
baahar bheetar ayko jaaṇhu ih gur gi-aan bataa-ee.
jan naanak bin aapaa cheenai mitai na bharam kee kaa-ee.
(Guru Granth Sahib, page 684).
[4] jogee jaⁿgam ar saⁿni-aas.
sabh hee par daaree ih faas. (Guru Granth Sahib, page 1186)
[5] This event has been explained in the previous chapter.
[6] Bhatt Vahi Talaunda, Pargana Jind, Khata Jalhanon Ka
[7] Bhatt Vahi Multani Sindhi, pargana Jind, Khata Hajavaton Ka
[8] ‘Bhatt Vahi Tumar Binjalunto Ki
[9] Guru Kian Sakhian, sakhi no. 21, p. 68.
{From: SIKH HISTORY IN 10 VOLUMES, vol 1., pp 292-303}

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