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Shaheed Singh Martyrs of Sikh History

History of Martyrdom in Sikhism


A shaheed singh is a Sikh martyr. Many thousands of incidences of martyrdom have occurred throughout centuries of Sikh history beginning with Fifth Guru Arjun Dev. Historically shaheed singhs attained martyrdom when their faith and right to worship faced challenges. Sikh martyrs met death on the battle field, or when imprisoned and tortured at the hands of Islamic Mughals bent on forced conversion. In Hindu dominated India's recent history, Sikhs have been victimized by hate crimes, rioting, and attempted genocide resulting in mass martyrdom. Religious intolerance continues to threaten innocent modern-day Sikhs.

Martyrdom of Shaheed Guru Arjun Dev (1606)

Fifth Guru Arjun Dev, the first of the Sikh shaheed martyrs attained martyrdom on June 16, 1606 in Lahore (Modern-day Pakistan). Guru Arjun Dev compiled spiritual songs of Hindu bards, Muslim minstrels and poetic compositions of earlier Sikh gurus together with his own verses into a scripture called the Adi Granth. Muslim rulers felt threatened by the Sikhs growing popularity and challenged the wording of certain verses. When Guru Arjun refused to change even a single letter testifying his faith in the spiritual guidance of the Granth, Mughal rulers called for his arrest. Guru Arjun remained steadfast in his convictions enduring five days of relentless torture at the hands of his captors before becoming shaheedi and attaining martyrdom.

Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadar (1675)

Sikh Comics Cover Guru Tegh Bahadur
Photo © [Courtesy Sikh Comics]

A delegation of 16 Brahmans gather and appealed to Guru Teg Bahadar to stop the persecution of Hindus by Mughal. Guru Teg Bahadar agreed and departed for the Mughal court with devotees, Mati Das, Sati Das and Dayal Das. All were arrested by Mirza Nur Mohammad Khan and imprisoned in Fort Sirhind. After four months they were move to Delhi where they were tortured for eight days in an effort to forcibly convert them to Islam. The Guru and his disciples remained steadfast in their faith despite days of relentless torture.

In the year 1675
  • November 8 - Mati Das was sawn in half.
  • November 9 - Dayal Das was boiled in a pot.
  • November 10 - Sati Das was wrapped in cotton, and burnt.
  • November 11 - (observed November 24) Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded.

Sahibzade, Four Martyred Sons of Guru Gobind Singh (1705)

Sahibzadey Animated Movie DVD
Photo © [Courtesy Vismaad / Sikh DVD]
  • Elder Sons - Vada Sahibzada
    Chamkaur - December 7, 1705 A.D. Ajit Singh, age 18, and Jujhar (*Zorawar) Singh, age 14, the elder sons of Guru Gobind Singh, volunteered for service against overwhelming odds and fell, one after the other, battling Islamic Mughal oppressors.
  • Younger Sons - Chote Sahibzada
    Sirhind Fatehghar - December 13, 1705 A.D. (13, Poh, 1762 SV) Zarowar (*Jujhar) Singh, age 9, and Fateh Singh, age 7, the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh, escaped from the battle site with their grandmother Mata Gujri, but while fleeing were betrayed. Offered life if they convert to Islam, they refuse to covert. Islamic captors, Nawab Wazir Khan and his Qazi, ordered the innocent children enclosed brick by brick until they died of suffocation, and then had them beheaded.

*As per research of historian, Aurthur Macauliffe

Martyr Mata Gujri, Mother of Guru Gobind Singh (1705)

Mata Gujri, the mother of Tenth Guru Gobind Singh suffered the martyrdom of her husband, Guru Teg Bahadar in November of 1675.

In December of 1705, Mata Gurjri was captured by Mughals along with her two youngest grandsons, imprisoned in an open tower overnight in Sirhind Fatehghar, and subjected to exposure from the elements. The boys were taken from her, bricked alive, and then decapitated. On December 12, 1705 A.D. Upon seeing the heads of her innocent martyred grandsons Zarowar (*Jujhar) Singh and Fateh Singh, she suffered heart failure.

*As per research of historian, Aurthur Macauliffe

Shaheed Banda Singh Bahadar (1716)

Banda Bahadar Rise of The Khalsa Animated Movie DVD
Photo © [Courtesy Vismaad / Sikh DVD]

Born October 16 (27), 1670 A.D. in Rajauri Kashmir, Punchh Dist as Lachhman Dev, son of Ram Dev Sodhi, he became a renunciate at age 15. Renamed Madho Das, he practiced yoga with Agur Nath establishing a monastery on Godvari River bank at Nanded where he met Guru Gobind Singh on September 3, 1708. He proclaimed himself the guru's Banda, or slave, was initiated as Khalsa and named Gur Bax Singh. Sending him on a mission against tyrannical Mughal forces, the guru gave Banda five Singhs, five arrows, a drum, and flag. Banda Singh fought a series of battles before being captured December 7, 1715, after an 8 month siege at Gurdas-Nangal. Refusing to accept Islam, Banda Singh saw his son dismembered before being blinded and dismembered June 9, 1716.

Shaheed Bhai Mani Singh (1737)

Born March 10, 1644 A.D. and martyred June 14, 1737 A.D., Bhai Mani came from a Dullat family of Jatt lineage living in the village of Kambhol. A scribe in the court of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Mani Singh's own hand wrote the finalized compilation of Guru Granth Sahib. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, Mughal rulers refused to allow Sikhs in Amritsar. Bhai Mani Singh agreed to a tax so that Sikhs could celebrate Diwali in Harmandir Sahib. Unable to pay the stipulated amount, he was arrested and ordered to convert to Islam. When he refused, the order was given to sever his limbs. Bhai Mani Singh insisted the executioner begin with his finger joints.

Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh (1745)

Bhai Taru Singh Animated Movie DVD
Photo © [Courtesy Vismaad / Sikh DVD]

Bhai Taru Singh obtained martyrdom and became shaheedi July, 1, 1745 A.D. in Lahore (modern-day Pakistan). Born in village Phoola of historic Punjab (present day Amritsar, India) in 1720, he lived with his sister and widowed mother during a time when Sikhs were persecuted. When arrested by Mughals for rendering aid to fellow Sikhs, Bhai Taru Singh fed his captors before going to jail. Bhai Taru resisted conversion to Islam refusing to cut his hair (kes). It is said that his hair, like his resolve, became as iron and could not be cut. His merciless captors peeled his scalp from his scull removing his hair intact. The governor who ordered the deed suffered excruciating pain and died after 22 days. Only then did Bhai Taru Singh succumb to his injuries.

Shaheedi Mothers, Martyrs of Lahore (1752)

Artistic Impression of Lahore Jail
Photo © [S Khalsa

Following a defeat in battle on March 6, 1752 A.D., Mir Mannu, governor of Lahore (modern-day Pakistan), retaliated by rounding up the Sikhs of his district and confiscating their holdings. He ordered Singhs beheaded. Sikh women and children were imprisoned in the Lahore jail, a suffocatingly dry and dusty enclosure, having one or two small bare brick rooms, with open barred windows. Starving women were forced to operate heavy grindstones. Mughal guards gruesomely massacred over 300 infants and children, impaling them on spears. Dismembered limbs were strung about their mothers necks. Women flung themselves into an open well in the yard to escape their captors atrocities. Survivors were rescued after the death of Mir Mannu November 4, 1753.

Shaheed Baba Deep Singh (1757)

Sikh Comics Baba Deep Singh Cover
Photo © [Courtesy Sikh Comics]

Born, January 20 (26), 1682 A.D., Baba Deep Singh, a warrior of Guru Gobind Singh's court, was also a scribe responsible for making hand written copies of Guru Granth Sahib. After the Guru's death, a 12 missal system was implemented. Baba Deep Singh was appointed head of Shaheed Missal. While engaged in freeing women captives from Islamic invader Ahmad Shah Abdali, Baba Deep Singh received news that Abdali's son, Timur Shah, had invaded Harmandir Sahib and was destroying the gurdwara. November 11 (13), 1757 A.D. Vowing to reach Harmandir Sahib dead or alive, Baba Deep Singh at age 75, gathered 5,000 Sikh warriors. Suffering a fatal wound to the neck, Baba Deep Singh valiantly fought the Mughals holding his severed head in place to fulfill his vow.

Lesser and Greater Sikh Holocausts (1746 & 1762)

  • Lesser Sikh Holocaust March 10, through June of 1746 A.D. Seeking revenge for his brothers death, Mughal Lakhpat Rai orders all Sikhs in Lahore executed. With a company of 50,000 he pursues Sikhs through the countryside ambushing and slaughtering men, women and children. In about 14 weeks time, more than 7,000 Sikhs are killed, 3,000 captured and tortured to death. Some estimate 20,000 attain shaheed in the Chhota Ghallughara (Lesser Holocaust).
  • Greater Sikh Holocaust Early February (3-5), 1762 A.D. Between 10,000 and 12,000 Sikh warriors are killed in battle. As many as 25,000 Sikh women and children martyrs are massacred and become shaheed in the Vadda Ghallughara (Great Holocaust).

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