gurudwaras have stepped up to even provide oxygen langars — helping thousands daily.


The story of Sikhism, suffering and service This year marks the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the ninth Sikh Guru, whose supreme sacrifice for the rights of adherents of another faith has no parallel in history. Indeed, for many, he was the initiator of the idea of human rights and the right of people to follow their own religious beliefs.

During his life, he displayed exemplary courage as a warrior along with the art of skilled negotiations, helping iron out differences among warring rajas in North India and Assam. He was also an avid follower of music, composing ragas and bani for the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was martyred on November 11, 1675, in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, on the orders of Aurangzeb. Gurudwara Sis Ganj stands at that spot.

Immediately after the martyrdom, a huge storm engulfed the area, allowing an ardent disciple to take his body to his home near Raisina village, in what is today New Delhi, and cremate it by burning his own house. Gurudwara Rakab Ganj stands at that site today. The head was spirited to Anandpur Sahib by another disciple and cremated with honours by his son, who thereafter became the 10th Guru taking the name, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He also decreed that after him, Sikhs would only follow the Guru Granth Sahib as their Guru.

Gurudwara Rakab Ganj is just a stone’s throw from another historic Sikh gurudwara in Delhi — Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and, in today’s time of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is worth recalling its connection with the alleviation of suffering.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was the youngest son of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji. The Guruship, however, passed from Guru Hargobind Ji to his grandson, Guru Har Rai Ji, who initiated the concept of Miri and Piri (temporal power and spiritual authority — symbolised by the two swords) in Sikhism and built the Akal Takht at the Durbar Sahib complex (Golden Temple) in Amritsar.

On the demise of Guru Har Rai Ji, the Guruship passed to his younger son, Guru Harkrishen Ji, who was only five years old at that time. A possible reason was that the elder son of Guru Har Rai Ji had betrayed the faith to the Mughal emperor and was excommunicated.

Guru Harkrishen Ji, the eighth Sikh Guru, was invited to Delhi by the Mughal court a few years later and stayed at the bungla (bungalow) of Raja Jai Singh. This is where Gurudwara Bangla Sahib stands today. During his sojourn in Delhi in 1664, the city saw a tremendous outbreak of smallpox and cholera with death all around. At the tender age of seven, Guru Harkrishen Ji, setting aside prevalent prejudices in society, stepped out and offered solace and comfort to all and allowed everyone to use the well in his bungalow to draw water. He contracted smallpox and died even before he could attain the age of eight, laying the foundation of service (sewa) by the Sikhs. Even today, thousands visit Gurudwara Bangla Sahib daily and carry home the Amrit as a cure for disease and suffering in their families.

On his death bed, Guru Harkrishen Ji intimated that the next Guru would be found in the village of Baba Bakala in Punjab. And it turned out to be Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the youngest son of Guru Har Gobind ji, who was, in fact, in terms of the family relationship, the grandfather of Guru Harkrishen Ji.

The tradition of sewa, now ingrained in the Sikh faith, has been visible with the Sikh community doing everything within its capabilities in providing langar (hot food sewa) to all, without discrimination, through the pandemic. And this beautiful Sikh tradition has also been carried forward by the Sikh community all over the world. In Delhi, now, with its dire need for oxygen, gurudwaras have stepped up to even provide oxygen langars — helping thousands daily.

Many have wondered how it is the Sikh community which is often the first to mobilise to serve in times of need — the answer lies in the nature of the faith and the teachings of the Gurus. And in Delhi, this history of service goes back close to four centuries.

Source :