Bhai Taru Singh, (c. 1720 - 16 July 1745), a Sikh martyr was a Sandhu Jatt of Puhia village, now in Amritsar district of the Punjab. He was a pious Sikh who following the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, worked hard tilling his land diligently and lived frugally; although not a rich man, he was always happy and did much for his Sikh brothers and sisters. Whatever he saved went to his Sikh brethren forced into exile by government persecution. He was spied upon by Akil Das (also known as Harbhagat Niranjania) of Jandiala, a government informer and subsequently, Taru Singh was hauled before Zakariya Khan, the governor of Punjab who was based at Lahore.
Born in Punjab during the reign of the Mughal Empire, Bhai Taru Singh was raised as a Sikh by his widowed mother. During this time, Sikh revolutionaries were plotting the overthrow of the Khan and had taken refuge in the jungle. Bhai Taru Singh and his sister gave food and other aid to these Sikh fighters. Akil Das, having informed the authorities about both of them to Zakaria Khan, the two of them were arrested for treason. Though his sister's freedom was bought by the villagers, Bhai Taru Singh refused to seek a pardon.
Zakariya Khan's mission against Sikhs
As the Prachin Panth Prakash narrates the story, Zakariya Khan once asked his men, "From where do the Sikhs obtain their nourishment? I have debarred them from all occupations. They realize no taxes. They do not farm, nor are they allowed to do business or join public employment. I have stopped all offerings to their gurdwaras, their places of worship. No provisions or supplies are accessible to them. Why do they not die of sheer starvation?"
Harbhagat, a sworn foe of the Sikhs, remarked, "There are Sikhs in this world who would not eat until they have fed their brethren. They may themselves go without food and clothing but cannot bear their comrades' distress. They would pass the winter by fireside and send them their own clothes. They would sweat to grind corn and have it sent to them. They would do the roughest chore to earn a small wage for their sake. They migrate to distant places to eke out money for their brothers in exile."
"In the village of Puhia in Majha," continued Harbhagat, "lives one Taru Singh. He tills his land and pays the revenue to the officials. He eats but little and sends what he saves to his brothers in the jungle. His mother and sister both toil and grind to make a living. They eat sparingly and wear the coarsest homespun. Whatever they save, they pass on to their fellow Sikhs."
Bhai Taru Singh arrested
Following the report by Akil Das, Bhai Taru Singh was arrested, imprisoned and tortured. Eventually, when presented before the governor, he defiantly greeted him with the Sikh salutation: Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Vahiguru ji ki Fateh. When charged with sedition, he stated :
- "If we till your land, we pay the revenue. If we engage in commerce, we pay taxes. What is left after our payments to you is for our bellies. What we save from our mouths, we give to our brethren. We take nothing from you. Why then do you punish us?"
The governor was in a rage and pronounced the usual alternatives, Islam or death. To quote again from the Prachin Panth Prakash, Taru Singh calmly asked, "Why must I become a Mussalman (a Muslim person)? Do not the Mussalmans ever die?"
The exact method of his execution is somewhat ambiguous. However, it is believed that after a short period of imprisonment and torture, Singh was brought before the Khan and given the choice of converting to Islam or being executed. As a symbol of his conversion, Singh would have to cut off his Kesh and present it as an offering to the Khan. Upon his refusal, and in a public display, Bhai Taru Singh's scalp was cut away from his skull with a sharp knife to prevent his hair from ever growing back. This torturous act is believed to be carried out on 25 June 1745.
Bhai sahib left to bleed to his death
Sikhs believe that once Bhai sahib had been returned to prison to await a slow death, Zakaria Khan was stricken with unbearable pain and the inability to urinate. He consulted his advisers about this sudden illness and he was told that this illness was due to his maltreatment of the Sikhs. Due to the unbearable pain and as a last resort, he sent an apology to the Khalsa Panth for his persecution of the Sikhs and begged for their forgiveness.
It was suggested by his advisers that if Zakaria Khan had his own scalp hit with Bhai Taru Singh's shoes, his condition might be lifted. Although the shoe cured the Khan's condition, he died 22 days later. Upon hearing that he had miraculously outlived the Khan, Bhai Taru Singh died as well on 16 July, 1745.
Taru Singh was then barely 25 years of age. His dead body was cremated outside Delhi Gate at Lahore, where a "Shahidganj", or martyrs' memorial, was later constructed. It became a place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs.
- 1. Bhangu, Ratan Singh, Prachin Panth Prakash. Amritsar, 1914
- 2. Gian Singh, Giani, Panth Prakash. Lahore, 1880
- 3. Lakshman Singh, Bhagat, Sikh Martyrs. Madras, 1928
- 4. Gandhi, Surjit Singh, Struggle of the Sikhs for Sovereignty. Delhi, 1980
- 5. Ganda Singh and Teja Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs. Bombay, 1950
- 6. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983
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