Sacrifice and Martyrdom

To sactrfice oneself for upholding a lofty ideal or anything that is for the good of a large number of people is sacrifice. It has seed of life in it. Pure sacrifice rususcitates the communities. Although the life span of Sikh religion is short, its sacrifices are mighty. Where traits of Gods worship, service of Guru, Sangat, feeling of brotherhood and organisation are mandatory, self renunciation, sacrifice, martyrdom and self sacrifice are also essential. Sikhism starts from sacrifice. Sikh means to obliterate one’s existence (of mind) and merge into the mind of Guru.


Guru Nanak Dev Ji has said—

ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥

ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥

ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥

ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥

Jo Tho Praem Khaelan Kaa Chaao ||

Sir Dhhar Thalee Galee Maeree Aao ||

Eith Maarag Pair Dhhareejai ||

Sir Dheejai Kaan N Keejai ||20||


Sri Guru Amar Das Ji says—

ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਸਭੁ ਸਉਪਿ ਗੁਰ ਕਉ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਪਾਈਐ ॥
Tan Man Dhhan Sabh Soup Gur Ko Hukam Manniai Paaeeai ||
Bhai Gurdas Ji describes the state of self sacrifice of a Sikh in the following words—

ਮੁਰਦਾ ਹੋਇ ਮੁਰੀਦ ਨ ਗਲੀ ਹੋਵਣਾ।

Muradaa Hoi Mureedu N Galee Hovanaa |

Only by becoming dead in life, i.e. totally detached, and not through mere verbal jargon one can become a true disciple.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੧

ਸਾਬਰੁ ਸਿਦਕਿ ਸਹੀਦੁ ਭਰਮ ਭਉ ਖੋਵਣਾ।

Saabaru Sidaki Saheedu Bharam Bhau Khovanaa |

One could be such a person only after getting sacrificed for truth and contentment and by eschewing delusions and fears.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੨

ਗੋਲਾ ਮੁਲ ਖਰੀਦੁ ਕਾਰੇ ਜੋਵਣਾ।

Golaa Mul Khareedu Kaaray Jovanaa |

The true disciple is a boughten slave who is ever busy in the service of the Master.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੩

ਨਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭੁਖ ਨ ਨੀਦ ਨ ਖਾਣਾ ਸੋਵਣਾ।

Naa Tisu Bhukh N Need N Khaanaa Sovanaa |

He forgets hunger, sleep, food and rest.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੪

ਪੀਹਣਿ ਹੋਇ ਜਦੀਦ ਪਾਣੀ ਢੋਵਣਾ।

Peehani Hoi Jadeed Paanee Ddhovanaa |

He grinds fresh flour (for free kitchen) and serves by fetching water.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੫

ਪਖੇ ਦੀ ਤਾਗੀਦ ਪਗ ਮਲਿ ਧੋਵਣਾ।

Pakhay Dee Taageed Pag Mali Dhovanaa |

He fans (the congregation) and washes nicely the feet of the Guru.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੬

ਸੇਵਕ ਹੋਇ ਸੰਜੀਦੁ ਨ ਹਸਣ ਰੋਵਣਾ।

Sayvak Hoi Sanjeedu N Hasanu Rovanaa |

The servant always remains disciplined and has nothing to do with wailing and laughing.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੭

ਦਰ ਦਰਵੇਸ ਰਸੀਦੁ ਪਿਰਮ ਰਸ ਭੋਵਣਾ।

Dar Daravays Raseedu Piram Rasu Bhovanaa |

This way he becomes dervish at the door of the Lord and gets drenched in the delights of the rains of love.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੮

ਚੰਦ ਮੁਮਾਰਖ ਈਦ ਪੁਗ ਖਲੋਵਣਾ ॥੧੮॥

Chand Mumaarakhi Eed Pugi Khalovanaa ||18 ||

He will be seen as the first moon of Id day (which the Muslims eagerly wait for in order to break their long fasts), and only he will come out as a perfect man.

ਵਾਰਾਂ ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ : ਵਾਰ ੩ ਪਉੜੀ ੧੮ ਪੰ. ੯

ਮੰਜ਼ਿਲਿ ਇਸ਼ਕ ਦਰਾਜ਼ ਅਸਤ ਬ-ਪਾ ਨਤਵਾਣ ਰਫ਼ਤ

Maańazili eisẖaka darāza asata ba-pā natavāna rafaata

The journey of love and devotion is extremely long and arduous; it cannot be traversed by walking on foot,

ਭਾਈ ਨੰਦ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ : ਦੀਵਾਨ-ਏ-ਗੋਯਾ : ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ੬੧ : ਪੰ.੫


Bhai Nand Lal Ji says—

ਸਰ ਕਦਮ ਸਾਜ਼ ਕਿ ਤਾ ਦਰ ਰਹਿ ਆਣ ਯਾਰ ਸ਼ਵੀ ॥ ੬੧ ॥ ੩ ॥

Sara kadama sāza ki tā dara rahi aāna yāra sẖavī ] 61 ] 3 ]

We should walk making our head as our feet, so that we can travel on the path towards our Beloved and the trek can be completed. (61) (3)

ਭਾਈ ਨੰਦ ਲਾਲ ਜੀ : ਦੀਵਾਨ-ਏ-ਗੋਯਾ : ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ੬੧-੩ : ਪੰ.੬


As, a seed when in earth produces countless seeds like itself through the plant and fruit, as the pen is sharpened first before it can write, as the pearl is formed before it can adore someone’s neck, as henna leaves are crushed into paste before it can yield colour, similarly in order to achieve some higher ideals, sacrifice is essential. Mother sacrifices her beauty and brings forth a pretty baby. As voluntary service has been taught in Sikhism, similarly voluntary sacrifice for the larger good of the people is a high ideal of Sikhism. Self renunciation or sacrifice is a very difficult and bitter venture but its effect is very pleasing. Let us see some examples of sacrifice from Sikh history.


Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent nearly 40 years of his life travelling and preaching the name of the Lord. It is very difficult for a house holder to spend so much time away from home. When he returned after his first ‘Udassi’, his sister Bebe Nanaki, father Mehta Kalu Ji, mother Tripta Ji and wife Bibi Sulakhni Ji said, “You will not go away now.” Guru Sahib stayed at home, for sometimes. By His order he proceeded on his second ‘Udassi’. Bebe Nanaki said, “O brother ! you are going away. Whom will these small children call father ? In whose lap will they sit ?” Guru Ji replied, “Dear Sister ! they are my children. We belong to the Formless Lord. They are in His lap. You know that millions of children of the world are in distress. God has ordered me to go and relieve them of their distress. Therefore, separated from these two children for a while, we have to go and look after millions of children. Please do not feel attached. Let your conscious mind be attached with the Formless God, and take care of these children. When you remember me, I shall come back.”


The grand palace of martyrs of Sikh religion has its foundation laid by Guru Nanak with his self renunciation and spirit of service without expectations of reward. Spending time in the prison of Sikandar Lodhi, arranging release of poor helpless people, selling oneself as a slave in Ruhelkhand and freeing the poor local slaves in captivity, grinding grains in the jail of Babur in Emnabad and then saving faquirs, destitudes and shelterless from the tyranny and opression of the mughals is an excellent form of sacrifice and selfless service.


As an intelligent analysis of a principle is essential, similarly facing of hardships and self sacrifice is essential for the success of higher ideals. No great ideal had ever been preached in the world for which great men had not borne hardships; religious, social, political or related to any other aspect of life. As the standing water stagnates, stopping of flow of blood in the veins renders a body dead, similarly an ideal becomes dead without sacrifice. Sandalwood paste made by rubbing a piece of wood on stone when applied on forehead gives cooling and soothing effect. Gold gives much greater shine after going through an ordeal in fire. Similarly much sacrifice made for an ideal stays alive for long.


Sikh religion has many high ideals that Guru Nanak preached. It kept flowing like a peaceful river till Guru Arjan Dev Ji imparted the teachings of acquiring moral values, worship, equality, service, true companionship, brotherhood etc. Obstructions encountered if any were mostly from the supporters of age old social and religious order. Mughals had no political confrontation with Sikhs for which they had to make any sacrifice.


Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji is the first honourable martyr of Sikh history, who bore tortures peacefully and sacrificed his life. It was a unique martyrdom for the protection of Sikh ideals. What were these ideals ? Without going into elaborate historic details, suffice to say that it was for the protection of Sikh religion. Emperor Jahangir records in his book Tauzik-e-Jahangiri—


“Their shop was active for about three four generations now. I have been contemplating to close this shop of falsehood or he (Guru) should be brought into Islam.”


The above words prove amply that the king was determined to finish Sikhism. Only two courses were open to Sikhs. Either it should have accepted the subservience of the mughals or remained alive through sacrifice. Guru Arjan Dev Ji selected the later course. And he had to lay his life bearing indescribable tortures. This was the first sacrifice of Sikh history that was made to save Sikh religion, and such noble causes as saving the poors and serving the downtrodden. Shahid (martyr) is a word of Arabic language that means to stand witness or he who lays his life treading the path dictated by God. The fifth master achieved the martyrdom for such high ideals.


The second sacrifice and martyrdom is that of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. This was done for the good of the people. Aurangzeb had perpetrated tyranny and oppression on the Hindus of Panjab and Kashmir. The Pandits of Kashmir came to the court of Guru Teg Bahadur at Anandpur and made a plea for help and safety of their religion, which was in danger and they could seek no one’s help at this juncture to save them or even guide them. Their life was in a turmoil and that no one would be able to help them except him (Guru Teg Bahadur Ji).


Guru Teg Bahadur was much moved by their plight and told them to go and tell the king that their leader was Guru Teg Bahadur. If the king could bring him around to his view, they all would accept whatever was deemed of them without any objection.


Aurangzeb maintained Gurgadi to be a seat of power. Therefore he wanted to end its existence. He issued orders for the arrest of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. Gurudev set out from Panjab and reached Agra where he was arrested and brought to Delhi. Aurangzeb was staying at Hasan Abdal (Panja Sahib) in view of his compaign against Kabul. However, before going, he had issued orders for the arrest of Guru Sahib. By the order of the king, Guru Teg Bahadur Ji was beheaded in Chandani Chowk Delhi. This was the second sacrifice of the Sikh history offered/undertaken for a philanthropic cause.


The sacred sacrifice of Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib filled the Sikhs with a new vigour and zeal. The great plant of Sikhism blossomed with the blood of the martyrs. Thereafter, the sacrifices made by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji for the survival of the nation and freedom of the people are hard to find not only in the Indian history but in the history of the world. To see and accept the sacrifice of his father at a young age of nine years, spend period of perpetual hardship all his life could only fall on the lot of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. His entire life was a picture of sacrifices. Guru Nanak had made a temporary renunciation from his two sons when he proceeded on ‘Udassies’ but he in the form of tenth Patishah Ji sacrificed his four sons to complete the strength of Sikhism.


In 1704, the mughal army assisted by hill chieftains laid siege at the fort of Anandpur Sahib. After a long drawn encirclement and various skirmishes in between, when no success could be achieved, the mughal army generals swore and assured that no harm would befall upon Sikhs and Guru Sahib, if they would vacate the fort voluntarily in order to help them save their respect and honour. Guru Patishah Ji agreed and vacated the fort on night 20-21 December 1704. In total violation of all the vows and assurances, the hill chiefs and the mughal Sainapati attacked the caravan of Guru Sahib. They tried to catch him. A bloody battle was fought on the bank of rivulet Sirsa. In the din and melee, two younger Sahibzadas Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh separated from the Guru family along with their grandmother Mata Gujri Ji. Confronting the enemy and many other forms of difficulties, Satguru Ji reached Chamkaur. He and some Sikhs accompanying him stayed in a mud fortress of a landlord. The royal army came and encircled the fortress. A fierce battle was fought where Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jujhar Singh, the two elder sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji achieved martyrdom. The sacrifice of brave sons of great worrior father is equally significant in the Sikh history. The younger Sahibzadas were bricked alive at Sirhind by the order of Nawab Wazir Khan, the Governor of Sirhind. As a plant when pruned blooms and blossoms more, the nations prosper through sacrifices. Sacrifices for worthy cause never go waste.


Life is precious and should be saved but many a times the situation arises that death alone can save lives. Such deaths make one immortal. On the contrary there are some who are alive but no better than dead. Martyrs always live because they bestow life on the nations. As Shakespeare has said, “A coward dies many a deaths; the brave dies once.” The sacrifices of the Gurus paved a path of sacrifices for many others to follow. Baba Banda Singh, Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, Bhai Subeg Singh, Bhai Shahbaz Singh, Bhai Hathu Singh, Baba Deep Singh and Baba Gurbakhash Singh are a few names that are worth mentioning here. Then there were brave women who bore the garlands of the body limbs of their infant children around their necks during the times of Mir Mannu. In the twentieth century, many Sikhs laid down their lives compaigning peacefully for the freedom of Gurudwaras like Nankana Sahib, Taran Taaran, Guru Ka Bagh, Panja Sahib and Gangsar (Jaito).


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