Sikhs celebrate 400th anniversary of ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur

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By Minreet Kaur

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur. The exact date is disputed but many gurdwaras are observing this on 1 May.

His given name was Tyag Mal but he was renamed Tegh Bahadur, which means master of the sword, after his father was impressed with his bravery in battle.

He was discovered as the next guru by a traveller passing through his town, Bakala, who was seeking a man who had wisdom. Once he was confirmed as the ninth guru, he travelled through India spreading the message of Sikh tradition.

In the late 17th century, Kashmiri Hindus were being persecuted by Mughal officials. Many had died or were forcibly converted and their numbers were dwindling.

The Hindus priests of Kashmir came to Guru Tegh Bahadur to ask for help to save their religion from being annihilated. 

He confronted the Mughal authorities but was arrested and jailed in Delhi, where he was asked to convert. He refused several times and was beheaded — an act considered to be martyrdom.

The values and teachings of the ninth guru are found in the holy Sikh scriptures, where he speaks about the purpose of life, the temporary state of humanity and how to achieve liberation.

Sikhs will be celebrating this anniversary by paying respects at the gurdwara. Online lectures of the life and teachings of Guru Tegh Bahadur are planned for 1 May, and some Sikh organisations have put on a series of lectures leading up to the day.

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