ਜੋਤਿ ਰੂਪਿ ਹਰਿ ਆਪਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਕਹਾਯਉ ॥
ਤਾ ਤੇ ਅੰਗਦੁ ਭਯਉ ਤਤ ਸਿਉ ਤਤੁ ਮਿਲਾਯਉ ॥
ਅੰਗਦਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰਿ ਅਮਰੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਥਿਰੁ ਕੀਅਉ ॥
ਅਮਰਦਾਸਿ ਅਮਰਤੁ ਛਤ੍ਰੁ ਗੁਰ ਰਾਮਹਿ ਦੀਅਉ ॥
ਗੁਰ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਪਰਸਿ ਕਹਿ ਮਥੁਰਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਬਯਣ ॥
ਮੂਰਤਿ ਪੰਚ ਪ੍ਰਮਾਣ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਅਰਜੁਨੁ ਪਿਖਹੁ ਨਯਣ ॥1॥
ਗੁਰੁ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਪੰਨਾ 1409
The embodiment of the Divine Light, they call you Gurū Nānak
Then became he a part of your body, the essence merged with the essence
By the grace of Gurū Angad, the prophethood was bestowed on Guru Amardās
Gurū Amardās raised the sovereign spiritual canopy over the head of Rāmdās
Upon the merciful glance of Gurū Rāmdās, his life was made nectar-like
The fifth embodiment of the Divine Light is inaugurated; behold with your eyes - Gurū Arjan!
Gurū Granth Sāhib, Pg. 1409
ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ - ਪੰਨਾ 1407
(Doctrine of Double Sovereignty)
Gurū Granth Sāhib, Pg. 1407
Then came the “Crown of Martyrs“, our beloved Gurū Arjan. After establishing the worldwide center for Sikh spiritual inspiration (Harimandir Sahib), compiling the Ādī Granth and inaugurating the bānī in its sanctum sanctorium, participating in protests against unjust taxes, establishing yet another Sikh community center and city (Tarn Tāran), and tending to the needs of his people, Gurū Arjan perfomed the miracle of miracles. According to Prof. Puran Singh he was a “prophet, poet, composer of music, passionate lover of the people, architect, saviour“ and he was also “intensely human“. He performed the miracle of putting mislead rulers in their place and of beating the Brahmin at their game of manipulation and dominance. He made the choice of giving up his worldly life and allowing it to come to an end. As we will see, by his choice what he really did was allow his life giving inspiration to live on forever.
Since the time of Gurū Arjan Sāhib‘s martyrdom, the Sikh Nation and indeed the whole world knows and understands that the tradition of martyrdom is part and parcel of the Sikh psyche. Whenever there is a choice – death or freedom – then the majority of Sikhs in our history have chosen death. And the precedent for that choice was established by our Fifth Master. It was the Guru’s model, the example, and the inspiration that would lead hundreds of thousands of Sikhs to choose “death as their bride” rather than live wretched lives of slavery and domestication.
Gurū Arjan taught the technique of martyrdom to his Sikhs. Historians point out that he met his physical death with great peace, equipoise, resilience, steadfastness, resolve, compassion, perseverance, and oneness with the Ultimate Reality. So much so that when red hot sand was poured down his back he kept on uttering “Glory, Glory” and “Sweet is Thy doing!”. He was so steadfast in his convictions that he reprimanded his best friend Saint Mian Mir for attempting to seek pardon from the authorities.
Many followed in his footsteps. First was our beloved Master the Brave Swordbearer (Teghbahadar) Nānak IX who made the same choice and passed on with similar peace and steadfastness as his grandfather. Along with him Bhāī Matī Dās, Bhāī Satī Dās, Bhāī Dayālā made the choice. Then came the four sāhibzādās, the forty mukate, Bandā Singh Bahādur, hundreds of his comrades including the young Sikh soul who disowned his mother for daring to say he was not a Sikh. A sampling of the countless more may include the likes of Bhāī Mani Singh who insisted to be cut apart joint by joint, Bhāī Tārū Singh the gentle yet victorious lion of the Gurū who parted not with his kes but rather his scalp, Bābā Gurbaksh Singh (Nihang) and his 30 Singh companions who fought until death to protect our sacred Harimandir Sahib, father and son Bhāī Subeg Singh and Bhāī Shāhbāz Singh who were crushed on the wheel, and the numerous Sikh mothers who wore garlands of their children‘s limbs in the jails of Mīr Mannū. Then how can we forget Bībī Balbīr Kaur of the Gurū kā Bāgh Morcā fame along with her temporary gift from Vāhgurū. In our recent history, Bābā Jarnail Singh of village Bhindrān, Bhāī Amrīk Singh, Bhāī Thārā Singh, General Shabeg Singh, our brothers Sukhā and Jindā, Beant Singh, Satwant Singh, Jathedār Gurdev Singh of village Kaonke and the unnamed mothers, wives, daughters and sisters that were butchered in the Tījā Ghalūghārā; the list of names is endless and so is their memory. Every drop of blood, every pinch of ash and every echo of the sound of the Gurū‘s word that came from their mouth has helped shape our tradition of martydom and allow for its sustenance in the ages to come. There can be no question of that.
The significance of the Shahīdī Gurpūrab of Panjve Pātshah is that it marks the opening of the spillways of the dam that blocked the reservoir of Sikh blood which then flowed into our history to make sacred our land, our faith and our culture.
It is distressing to have read the words of certain men and women of so called “academic circles” that are trying to discredit our tradition of shahīdī. Some historians have given weird reasons for Guru Arjan Sāhib‘s martyrdom. They know not that we, the Sikhs, are a haughty lot. The Sikhs don‘t need some orientalist or athiest inspired researchers defining or reinterpreting our traditions. We know who were are. However, we are also a forward thinking, open minded and compassionate lot. Let them study our hearts and the manners of our manifestations of love. We know who we are and we need no logical explanation of our attachement to our Guru. It is just like the case of a child that has this inherent sixth sense for his or her mother‘s touch. It automatically soothes and makes a crying volcano into a giggly babe. When our minds envision Gurū Arjan on the red hot ironplate, and when our ears hear him reveal “ ‘Tis sweet, whatever Thou doest oh Vāhgurū, Nanak only seeks the treasure of Internal Rememberance“, then our souls are automatically cooled and our convictions are immediately made steadfast. There is no logic or science behind it. There is only experience and feeling.
And on this day, the anniversary of the martyrdom of the “Crown of Martyrs”, let us experience and feel. Let us beg for even an iota of courage and faith that our ancestors had when faced with the ultimate choice. Let us not forget our tradition of shahīdī and cherish the memories of those made immortal by following it.
I end with poem on “martyrology“, a unique Sikh inspired term I guess. It is written by Harmohanjit Singh from his book of poems: Sugar, Steel and the Maple Leaf.
By Harmohanjit Singh
Guru Arjan made the original sacrifice,
Selecting to roll death‘s dice,
Paying an ulimate price.
The Supreme Martyr,
The first to refuse to barter,
Compiler of our cherished charter.
His stance was too unfashionable,
Path proving so unflappable,
Earth angel arrested,
Temporal temptation tested,
Spiritual resolution never rested.
Readily facing his physical fate,
Feeling zero anger and hate,
Inspiring heroes in-wait.
When up rose his hand,
Down fell hot beads of sand,
Like a hellish hourglass on demand.
By day the sun shone less brilliantly,
But his son went on resiliently,
Reigning just as valiantly.
Victory went to Waheguru,
Wile Sikh history began anew,
And our martyrology grew and grew.
 In Sikh tradition a “child” of Gursikh parents is considered the amānat of Vāhigurū that is temporarily put in the care of the parents. Bibi Balbir Kaur is known to have placed her dead child (shot by a British bullet) on a mound while saying “Vāhgurū apni amānat vāpas leh lai” (Vāhguru, please take back Your belonging which you temporarily put in my care…). She then proceeded to get shot by a bullet and attained martyrdom. Please read “Adarshak Singhnian” by Karam Singh.
 Yes, McLeod and his disciples have also worked hard to discredit and confuse our cherished concept of martyrdom by so called “historical analysis”. Please read: Martyrdom in the Sikh Tradition: Playing the ‘Game of Love’, Louis F. Fenech,
 ਤੇਰਾ ਕੀਆ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਗੈ॥ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਾਂਗੈ ॥ terā kīā mīthā lāgai. hari namu padārathu nānaku māngai.