Guru Arjan Dev Ji (15 April 1563 – 30 May 1606) was the first martyr of the Sikh faith and the fifth of the 10 Sikh Gurus.
Mughal Emperor Jahangir asked Guru Ji to convert to Islam. He refused, was tortured for five days and executed in 1606 CE.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji was ordered to death by the wine- and opium-loving Muslim fundamentalist Emperor Jahangir, who was very taken with the idea of turning the entirety of Hindustan into an Islamic State.
Jahangir was aided by the once-powerful Hindus who were associated with the Mughal Court and had seen their own power base disappear rapidly under the influence of the Guru.
One such character was Chandu Shah, who had finally warmed to the marriage of his daughter with Guru Arjan’s son HarGobind, but became inflamed at the rejection of his proposal by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. He went to Jahangir and “filled his ear with poison against the Guru.” He was then allowed by Jahangir to determine how Guru Arjan Dev Ji would be tortured.
On day one, Guru Arjan Dev Ji was deprived of food and drink. On day two, Chandu Shah made the Guru sit in a large copper cauldron. He had his men fill the vessel with water and ordered a fire to be lit underneath it. The water began to get hot and after some time, the water began to boil. It scalded the Guru’s body, but Guru Arjan Dev sat calmly and quietly. He felt no pain, nor did he cry out or even sigh.
On the third day, Chandu Shah ordered, “Make some sand red hot in iron pans. Seat the Guru in boiling water. Then pour the red hot sand on his head and body.” The water boiled the Guru’s flesh from below while the burning red hot sand burned the Guru’s head and body from above.
Again, Guru Arjan Dev Ji kept calm and quiet. He felt no pain, nor did he cry out, sigh, or feel anger. He kept thinking of Waheguru and doing Simran.
On the fourth day, the Guru was made to sit on a plate of iron that was heated from below until it became red hot. Then, scalding hot sand was poured over his body. Still, Guru Arjan Dev Ji sat calm and quite, without a cry or sigh, feeling no pain, with his mind fixed on Waheguru, accepting His Will, or Hukam.
On the fifth day, Chandu Shah thought to suffocate him in a fresh cowhide, in which he was to be sewn up. Instead the Guru asked for a bath in the Ravi River which flowed along the walls of the city of Lahore. He was permitted to do so.
Crowds watched the Guru standing in the river and having a dip, before light blended with light and the Guru’s body was nowhere to be found.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s execution led the Sikh Panth to become armed and to pursue resistance to persecution under the Islamic rule. His martyrdom is considered a watershed event in the history of Sikhism.
Before his execution, Guru Arjan Dev Ji instructed his son and successor HarGobind to take up arms, and resist tyranny.