Guru Arjan Dev: The First Sikh Guru Martyr

Emperor Jahangir had ordered for the Guru to be tortured and executed.

1 min read

(This story was first published on 16 June 2017 and is being republished on the occasion of Guru Arjan Dev's birth anniversary.)

The fifth of the 10 Sikh Gurus, Arjan Dev has a special place in history.

The Guru, who succeeded his father and the fourth Sikh Guru Guru Ram Das oversaw the completion of the Golden Temple. The holy place in Amritsar was opened to the public in 1604.

Half of his teachings constituted the Adi Granth, the holy book of the Sikh faith, which over the years expanded to be the Guru Granth Sahib.

During Guru Arjan Dev’s period, thousands of Indians – Hindus and Muslims – converted to Sikhism.

Tortured and Executed

Mughal emperor Jahangir wanted the Guru to stop preaching the message of God initiated by the Sikh Guru Nanak Dev.

When the Guru refused to abide by the emperor’s wishes, he was ordered to be tortured and executed. Over a period of five days in Lahore, he was made to sit on burning iron plate, with scalding hot sand poured over him. Later, he was escorted to a river to take a bath.

Thousands of spectators watched as he took a dip. But, as the legend goes, he did not resurface. He thus became the first Guru of the Sikh faith to be martyred.

Before his martyrdom, the Guru anointed his son, Guru Hargobind, as his successor.

His martyrdom was considered a landmark moment in Sikh history as it is alleged that the sixth Guru went on to militarise the Sikh community towards resisting oppression and tyranny.

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