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Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom a lesson for tolerance
Guru Tegh Bahadur is not widely known but he is a martyr. He sacrificed his life for Hindus and believed in loving every religion.

AT A time when people are fighting each other, hating one another's religion and showing no tolerance, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom day reminds us what he sacrificed his life for and the lesson he left. The ninth Guru of Sikhs, Tegh Bahadur was executed on November 24, 1665 on the orders of Aurangzeb in Delhi.

On this day, President Pranab Mukherjee said that people should learn from his sacrifice. As was reported by ndtv.com, he said, “Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom day is a solemn occasion to remember the glory of his sacrifice. Guru Tegh Bahadur was a selfless, courageous leader who taught all of us to seek strength from truth, worship and knowledge.”

It is generally believed that Guru Tegh Bahadur stood up for all the Kashmiri Hindus at a time when Aurangzeb was harboring the dream of making India an Islamic country. Thus, it is commendable to know that Guru stood up not for Sikhs or to promote Sikhism but for Hindus so that they can practice freely what they want.

While Aurangzeb, who ruled a vast empire from Afghanistan to South India up to Madurai in Tamil Nadu for 50 years in the Mughal period, was believed to be a pious Muslim, he also is one of the most controversial Mughal emperors. He is blamed for destroying thousands of Hindu temples, but the 1946 edition of history text book, Etihash Parichaya (Introduction to History), used in Bengal, published by the Hindustan Press, 10 Ramesh Dutta Street, Calcutta, for the 5th and 6th graders states something on the contrary: “If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge estates for use as Temple sites and support thereof in Benares, Kashmir and elsewhere. The official documentations for these land grants are still extant.”

Lending credence to what the history textbook says, historian Babu Nagendranath Banerjee has rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for nearly a thousand years.

Challenging the hypothesis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu, Banerjee says: “By reasoning that Aurangzeb was truly guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military commander-in-chief? Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a competent Muslim general in that position.”

Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb’s 50-year reign and observed that every one was free to serve and worship God in his own way.

Last but not the least, a stone inscription in the historic Balaji or Vishnu Temple, located north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by Aurangzeb himself. The proof of Aurangzeb’s land grant for famous Hindu religious sites in Kasi, Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites. 

Thus during these turbulent times, people should remember the ninth guru and his sacrifice for being tolerant to all religions, a quality increasingly found missing amongst us.

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