Sultan-ul Duniya Wal-Akhirat: Guru Teghbahadar Sahib

What is the Guru’s grandeur? Why was the Guru Tegh Bahadur martyred? How did the two contemporary texts document the Guru’s narrative? Harinder Singh shares some thoughts.

A 19th century painting depicting Guru Tegh Bahadur on display at ACM

By Harinder Singh | SikhRi | Opinion |

The Sikh historical narratives live in the psyche of the Guru Khalsa Panth, the flag-bearers of the Sikh collective. IkOankar or 1Force narratives are recorded as perpetual infinite wisdom in the Guru Granth Sahib, the charter of the Sikh collective. The historical narratives were passed from bosom to bosom, told, and retold from generation to generation. Two of those witnessing the events recorded their impressions of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib (1621-1675) in the two texts. They both were contemporaries of the Guru, and their texts are considered either a contemporary or a near-contemporary source. The writings of Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya’ and Chandra Sain ‘Sainpati’ have been informing and transforming the Sikh psyche since the eve of the seventeenth century. This essay is an attempt to present the grandeur and legacy of the Ninth Sovereign from Goya’s Ganjnamah and Sainpati’s Sri Gur Sobha. They were two of the fifty-two court-poets in the Darbar of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib (1666-1708).

In the current climate of appropriation and revisionism, these two aforementioned textual sources must form the basis of the Guru’s life and legacy narrative. The popular mandates are an attempt to revise the narratives during the fourth centennial commemorations of the Ninth Nanak, Guru Teghbahadar Sahib.

The actual original texts, dating, and inter-language transcription continue to be part of the academic debate. The authors’ names, biographies, and Sikh lifestyles remain unfinished, though they seem to gather some steam and fascination in academia and the community.

The Sikh inspiration is beautifully captured in both texts: their love for the Guru, their linguistic and poetic scholarship, as well as their clarity on the Guru’s perfection and mission is uncontested. And that is what is presented here, a new translation from selections from their writings about Guru Teghbahadar Sahib.


Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya’ (1633-1713) was born in Ghazni, Afghanistan, and died in Multan, Pakistan. His poetry is in Panjabi and Persian. Ganjnamah (Treasury-Book) is in Persian. It is divided into ten parts; each part has two subsections. Each part deals with one of the Gurus in the order of their guruships. Guru Teghbahadar Sahib is covered in the ninth part.

In the first subsection Saltnat-e-Naham, Guru Teghbahadar Sahib is presented as the Sovereign who ruled a sultanate. It also unveils the mystery of the Guru’s name in letters of the Persian alphabet. In the second subsection Vahiguru Jiu Sati, the Guru’s status is lovingly, creatively, and poetically enunciated.

Through Goya, the various facets of the Guru’s unfolded: sovereign, divine, powerful, examiner, reviver, uniter, advisor, officer, and so on. Each facet established the Guru’s perfection in a subtle yet direct manner. Then, each letter of the Guru’s name describes an attribute of the Guru.


Chandra Sain ‘Sainpati’ (16xx-17xx) was from the Panjab; he was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and spent later days in Wazirabad, Pakistan. Sri Gur Sobha is in Panjabi and Braj languages; its script is Gurmukhi. It is composed of nineteen poetic forms and meters divided into twenty chapters over nine hundred and thirty-five verses.

Sainapat’s portrayal of the Guru is in the classic Indic tradition of epics. He employed the textual techniques used to present Hindu heroes.


During the commemoration of the 400th Prakash Purab (Illumination Day) of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib, it is prudent to acknowledge and re-establish the original narrative: The Guru was the Sovereign. Guru was the Ninth Sovereign in the line of the Raj started by Guru Nanak Sahib. The Guru was neither Hindu nor Muslim. The Guru never even in thought or practice entertained any animosity or discrimination towards anyone. The Guru declared: “Nanak says that the mind must accept this explanation that the insightful does not instill fear in anyone nor is fearful of anyone

The Guru lived the 1Force-1Ness paradigm born out of 1Oankar-Nam culture. The Guru contemplated IkOankar, composed music, fought battles, established centers, mediated treaties, addressed corruption, and embraced martyrdom. The Guru’s followers, friends, and adversaries included the Sikhs, the Hindus, and the Muslims. The Mughal empire, the Hindu Hill chiefs and Rajput kings, the Sikh masands were not accepting the Guru’s open and transparent way.

Today’s narrative of the Guru is either nefarious revisionism or intentional omission by the Hindutva forces in Indian publications and the Islamic publications in Pakistan. Elements of this are global, online, and amid Sikh writings as well. This huge challenge must be addressed and will require diligence and deliberation for corrections to materialize.

To deeply know and intimately connect with the Guru, one must read, study, listen to and sing the sabads (verse or composition) in the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Teghbahadar Sahib revealed the infinite wisdom in fifty-nine Sabads in fifteen rags (musical modes) as well as fifty-seven saloks (poetic praise). That is where the perfect Sikh narrative resides!

This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared at the SikhRi website in 2021. Click here for the original article.


The Truth of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji’s Martyrdom (Asia Samachar, 23 Nov 2022)

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