Why Was Guru Arjan Dev Ji Martyred (The Real Reason)

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16th of June, 1606 marks a very important date in the Sikh calendar. On this date, Guru Arjan Dev Ji (the 5th Sikh Guru), age 43, was captured by one of the most brutal, heartless and fanatic Muslim rulers of all time, Emperor Jehangir.

Our beloved Guru was captured, imprisoned, tortured and had to endure the most inhumane and horrifying tortures one can imagine, for 3-whole days, until the final day of the Guru’s execution.

The reason why I wanted to put this video and article together was because, many of us, especially the Sikh youth, seem to be unaware of the ‘real’ reason why Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred.

What Are We Celebrating?

In the coming days, many of us will witness Gurdwara functions, ‘Akhand Paaths’ and ‘kirtans’ in the name of ‘Saheedi Dihara’ and will hear many accounts of the events that happened on this day in history.

Most ‘Gianis’ and ‘parcharaks’ will tell you stories that have been passed down over the centuries but deep down in your heart you will know that the reasons and explanations given do not truly justify Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s martyrdom.

Various Fake Stories Out There

You will hear stories like….

Guru Arjan Dev Ji was captured because He refused to accept Chandhu’s marriage proposal of his daughter to Guru Arjan’s son, Har Gobind. And that Chandhu being a high official in the court of Jehangir had instigated the matter and complained to Jehangir which is the reason why Guru Arjan was captured, tortured and martyred.

OR you’ll hear stories like…

Prithi Chand (Guru Arjan’s eldest brother) had conspired with emperor Jehangir to take down or forcibly take over the Guruship lineage and because Prithi Chand wasn’t qualified and Guru Ram Das (Guru Arjan’s father) had already decided that Arjan Dev would be appointed as the 5th Sikh Guru, Prithi Chand did not accept this decision lightly.

So, together with enemies of the house of Guru Nanak (which included the Nirmalays and Hindu priests), plotted and conspired with Jehangir to capture and forcibly make Guru Arjan Dev Ji accept their terms and decisions.

But honestly, you’ve got to ask yourselves this.

Could these be sufficient grounds or reasons for the emperor to capture and brutally torture Guru Arjan Dev Ji to his death?

What Happened Actually?

Here’s what I think happened.

As you may be aware, Guru Arjan Dev Ji took it upon himself to gather and compile one of the most important compilations of mankind’s existence, the scriptures (bani) of 5 Sikh Gurus and 29 Bhagats, Bhaats and other GurSikhs into what we know as ‘Pothi Sahib’ or ‘Aad Granth’.

Guru Arjan wanted to make sure that NO other text, scriptures or poetry from any other source that were not in tandem with Guru Nanak’s divine philosophy, seeped into the ‘Pothi Sahib’.

Guru Ji wanted to ensure that ‘Pothi Sahib’ ONLY contained divine messages (shabads, poetry and writings) of the 35 selected writers, and NO ONE elses.

But Jehangir wasn’t happy with Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s decision. He knew the Guru was compiling these scriptures into an important holy book which the Sikhs will be referring to called ‘Pothi Sahib’ and he badly wanted to include writings of his choice into it as well.

Jehangir was convinced that since the compilation had writings and poetry of different writers of different ethnicity, race and religion, he felt Guru Arjan should accept his choices and included the writings of poets and writers of his choice as well.

The Guru must have politely rejected Jehangir’s requests in the beginning (not on one but perhaps on several occasions) but Jehangir being the stubborn and adamant person he was, did not give up that easily. He knew, that the ‘Pothi Sahib’ was going to be a very important book in the Sikh world and he direly wanted to include the writings of his choice in it too.

The sheer refusal from the Guru to include Jehangir’s choice writings in ‘Pothi Sahib’ actually sparked a deep rage and anger in the emperor.

Guru Arjan Dev ji explained to the him as to why it was impossible for the Guru or any other Sikh Guru after him, to include just about anyone’s writing or poetry into ‘Pothi Sahib’, but the emperor would not accept a ‘No’ for an answer. That’s the way things were back then.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s Refusal

Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s refusal to include writings of Jehangir’s choice into ‘Pothi Sahib’ made him completely blinded with rage. He became so furious with Guru Ji’s steadfast decision that he then decided to use force.

This is the REAL reason as to why Guru Arjan Dev Ji was tortured and martyred in the end.

The other stories of instigation such as Chandu’s daughters’ marriage proposal refusal with young Har Gobind, and Prithi Chand’s instigation etc could have only sealed the final decision from Jehangir to place immense life-threatening pressures upon the Guru, in hopes that the Guru would stand down and accept the emperor’s proposal.

Their forcible efforts were futile as we all know, and Guru Sahib had to endure so much pain and inhumane torture for 3-whole days before the Guru breathed His last.


Pyareo, despite anyone telling you any other story, this is the ‘real’ reason as to why Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred on 16 June 1606. Please tell this story to your children so that they know what really went down during that time.

Think about this! How such inhumane brutality happened towards our Gurus and Sikhs and yet they NEVER denounced their faith.

You see, the enmity of the Mughal emperors towards the Sikh faith, Sikh Gurus, and the entire Sikh population was deep rooted (like a personal vendetta someone has for another). It went on for several decades as if Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s killing was no big deal.

It did not end at Guru Arjan but rather it went on right up to Guru Tegh Bahadhur Sahib Ji and even Guru Gobind Singh Ji as you all know.

The Mughal empire just wanted to literally wipe out Sikhs from the face of earth. And we’ve seen this similar situation happening in the 20th century when Hitler and Nazis mass killings and genocide of the Jews took place in the millions during World War 1 & 2.

Pyareo, our Guru lost his life but not his faith.

He taught us that in the face of adverse pressures, we are to stand steadfast in our decisions never losing hope and faith even if one were to lose their life for the cause. We are NEVER to sway away from the path of ‘truth’.

Let this day be a remembrance as to why Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred.

NOTE: Image courtesy of Wikipedia. All images and photos of Gurus in the world today are an artist impression only and not a real depiction of how our Gurus looked like.

Related Resources

Dr. Karminder Singh Dhillon PhD (Boston), Chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee, Global Sikh Council (GSC) delivers a special message to the Sikh World on the 416th Shaheedee Diharra of Guru Arjan Dev Ji 2022.


  • Amarjit S. Gulati

    Amarjit says, the Sikhi that is being practiced today & preached by most clergy (Gianis, Parcharaks, Kirtaniyas) is NOT aligned with Guru Nanak's teachings. As a researcher and a student of Nanakian philosophy, he attempts to share his utmost honest opinions and findings based on Gurmat and real-life experiences.

    View all posts

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