Guru Ladho Re: Guru Tegh Bahadur- Myths in Sikhism



This is a fake story labelled with Guru Tegh Bahadur when Guruship was awarded to him  at Bakala. I will only describe it briefly as almost 100% of Sikh nation is familiar with this story. The objective of this article is to provide an explanation to prove it is a myth as it is not relevant to Guru’s philosophy. The story is as follow:

This mythical story described that Sikhs asked Guru Harkrishan ji; who would be our next Guru? Guru ji replied: Baba Bakalae. A merchant named Makhan Shah Labana was at sea with his ship when a storm hit. He tried his best to save the ship. When he realised it was out of his control, he prayed to God and promised, he would offer 500 gold coins to the Guru, if the ship was saved. Makhan Shah’s ship was saved. He went to Bakala, where he found 22 people claimed to be Guru. He was puzzled, decided to give each only 2 gold coins . He kept in mind that the real Guru would know that I had promised 500. So he went to all 22 and gave each 2 gold coins. He was surprised that no one asked for more. He figured out, they were all fake Gurus. He inquired if there was any one else. Some one pointed out to a man named Tegh Bahadur who was living in a underground room(bhora). Tegh Bahadur never claimed that he was a Guru. Makhan Shah went to Tegh Bahadur and gave him 2 gold coins. Tegh Bahadur who was meditating, opened his eyes and asked for rest of the 500 gold coins. Tegh Bahadur also showed his bruised shoulder and other injuries to Makhan Shah. He was convinced Tegh Bahadur was the real Guru and gave him rest of the 500 gold coins. Makhan Shah was very pleased with his discovery, went up the roof with his drum(dhol) saying: Guru Ladho Re, Guru Ladho Re, “I have found the Guru, I have found the Guru”.

Let us do critical analysis of this tale to see if it will pass the Guru’s philosophy and logical test. In Sikhism, any story or tradition which is not logical, relevant, factual, truthful, practical, reasonable, purposeful and scientific is considered not true or a ritual. There are so many holes in this story, I will only list few as follow:

  1. It is not possible that Guru kept the Sikh Sangat in dark by saying Baba Bakalae, I am certain Guru ji did not say that. Guru ji followed the tradition, the other Gurus did. All Sikh Gurus appointed their successor before they left this world. So was Guru Tegh Bahadur appointed by Guru Harkrishan ji in Delhi in the presence of Sikh Sangat. Please note: Sikh sangat never asked the previous Gurus who would be next Guru. At the time when Gurus realised it is the right time to declare, they informed the Sikh sangat. As Gurbani states, Guru is not forgetful (Aabhul). This part of the story made Guru Harkrishan ji forgetful, which is against Gurbani philosophy.
  2. On which sea was the ship stranded?
  3. What about the ship’s crew? One man crew or more?
  4. How far was the sea from Bakala? How long it took Guru ji to reach there in an emergency situation, by walking, as there were no aeroplanes, cars or trains?
  5. Sikhism do not believe in miracles, so Guru ji did not act like “Superman”(a fictional character in a movie) to save the ship.
  6. How one person, just Guru ji alone, pulled the ship to the coast or anchored the ship during the storm?
  7. Why no one else verified what Makhan Shah said?
  8. Sikh Gurus did not work for money, they gave away every thing for good causes. So Guru Tegh Bahadur did not save the ship for 500 gold coins.
  9. Gurbani does not approve meditation in a Bhora. So it is unlikely, the future Guru, Baba Tegh Bahadur wasted more than 26 years in a Bhora (practiced ritual against Gurbani philosophy).
  10. Why no one ever mentioned the names of the 22 fake Gurus?

The above points indicate the story is not consistent with Gurbani’s philosophy and also not logical. Therefore it is a myth.

The brief history of Guru Tegh Bahadur is as follow:

Guru Tegh Bahadur was born in Amritsar on April 01, 1621. His birth name was Tyag Mal(Master of Renunciation). He learnt Gurmukhi, Hindi, Sanskrit and religious philosophy from Bhai Gurdas. Baba Budha ji taught him marshal art, archery and horsemanship. He learnt swordsmanship from his father Guru Hargobind ji. After the battle of Kartarpur, the victorious Sikhs retuned home with their new hero(Tyag Mal)with new “warrior’s” name. And so Tyag Mal was renamed Tegh Bahadur(Brave sword wielder or Best sword wielder). He was married to Mata Gujri ji at Kartarpur in 1632.

Har Rai ji was appointed Guru by Guru Hargobind ji in 1644. Guru Har Rai ji was aware of Baba Tegh Bahadur’s knowledge of Gurbani. So Guru Har Rai asked him to go and spread Guru Nanak’s teachings(Prachar). Baba Tegh Bahadur travelled extensively throughout India for next 20 years. He visited Dhaka, Bengal, Assam, Bihar and other parts of eastern India before he become Guru in 1664.  He was the first Guru after Guru Nanak, who travelled so much for Sikhi Prachar. Guru Tegh Bahadur travelled with his family and group of knowledgeable Gursikhs.

A book based on “Bhat Vehies” titled Guru Kian Sakhian by Pro. Piara Singh Padam, 1995, highlighted all the relevant dates of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s travelogue. This book also stated Gobind Rai(Guru Gobind Singh) was born on December 18, 1661, not in 1666 as is commonly known. 

In 1663 Baba Tegh Bahadur was in eastern part of India when he received the news that Guru Har Rai ji had passed away and Guru Harkrishan ji was awarded with the responsibility of the Guruship. He decided to come back to Punjab, about mid March 1664 reached Delhi. While in Delhi he found out that Guru Harkrishan ji was there on Aurangzeb’s request. After resting for few days Baba Tegh Bahadur met with Guru Harkrishan ji at Raja Ram Singh’s place on March 21, 1664. Baba Tegh Bahadur informed Guru ji about his Prachar and conveyed sincere condolences for the sudden loss of Guru Har Rai ji. Guru Harkrishan ji was not feeling well and found to be very weak. He explained  Baba Tegh Bahadur all about Aurangzeb’s intention and status of Sikhi’s future in Punjab. Guru ji’s health deteriorated further. When he realised his life’s end is near, on March 24, 1664 Guru Harkrishan ji asked Baba Tegh Bahadur, in the presence of the Sangat, to take responsibility of Guru Nanak’s throne and go back to Bakala. The noted Gursikhs Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Uda, Bhai Gurbux and Baba Tegh Bahadur’s family were all there in the Sangat. Guru ji also advised the Sangat and Guru Tegh Bahadur to delay the ceremony/celebrations for next few months as the political power (Aurangzeb) was not in favour of seeing another Sikh Guru. Guru Tegh Bahadur, with some Gursikhs, left Delhi and started their journey towards Bakala.

In Delhi on March 30, 1664 Guru Harkrishan ji left this world. Few days after the funeral services, as was instructed, the Sangat started their journey to Bakala. After reaching Bakala, Sangat discussed with Guru Tegh Bahadur when to hold Guruship ceremony/celebrations. A day was set and invitations were sent out for Sikhs to come and join the festivities. On August 11, 1664, Guru Tegh Bahadur was formally proclaimed as ninth Guru of the Sikhs.

  • At Bakala, on October 9, 1664 Guru ji was attacked by Dheer Mal’s cronies. They took one hand written saroop(copy) of Adi Granth and other articles from Guru’s household. Guru ji was escaped unharmed though there were gun shots fired.
  • Guru ji bought land at Makhowal from Rani Champa for 500 rupees, there founded new town “Chakk Nanaki”. This was later renamed Anandpur (City of Bliss).
  • Guru ji was incarcerated at Dhamdhan(Jeend) on November 8,1665. After more than 2 months in jail, Guru ji was released.
  • Guru ji was arrested second time near Agra in mid June 1670, after 2 months and 13 days Guru ji was released again.
  • A place near Ropar(July 27, 1675) Guru ji were arrested third time along with 3 other noted Gursikhs. This was after Guru ji declared support for the protection of Human Rights for the Kashmiri Pundits.
  • November 11, 1675 Bhai Dyal Das was ordered to sit in a cauldron of boiling water, Bhai Mati Das was sawn into two pieces and Bhai Sati Das was wrapped up in cotton wool and set on fire. Guru Tegh Bahadur after witnessing martyrdom of three disciples was publicly beheaded later that day.
  • Guru Tegh Bahadur is also known as “The Shield of India”(Hind De Chadar).

All of the above points indicate that Guru Tegh Bahadur was a revolutionary as was Guru Nanak and other Gurus in Sikhism. He preached Gurbani and inspired people to stand up for their rights. Guru Tegh Bahadur undertook the supreme sacrifice for the protection of the most fundamental of human rights and the rights of a person to freely practice his or her religion without interference or duress. Whereas Guru ji himself did not believe or practice that religion. This type of unique supreme sacrifice had never been previously recorded in human history.

This martyrdom was self thought for the defence of basic human values, which centuries later were incorporated by the U.N. General Assembly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948. It would have been honourable if government of India (M.K Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru) approached U.N. General Assembly to adopt his martyrdom anniversary celebration by all humankind, as freedom of conscience day. However, the anti-Sikh new rulers of India had no intension of doing this.

Let us look at the mythical part of the story which says Guru Tegh Bahadur spent more than 26 years in a bhora doing meditation. I would like to say that individuals who meditate in bhoras, hide themselves from public and do it for their personal gain. Such people are never revolutionary and don’t fight for human rights. In fact they apply the policy of “See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Say Nothing, Stay out of trouble”. They are usually backed by the corrupt political powers, commonly seen today as Deradars, Babas, Sants, Taksals and SGPC in India. When ever some one narrates  this mythical story, he or she is  insulting the great Guru, who did so much for humanity and sacrificed his life for the protection of Human Rights. I hope the Sikh public would agree that Guru Ladho Re is definitely a myth. I humbly ask Sikh sangat to raise questions whenever one hears this mythical story in Gurdwaras or any where from anyone.

Ramjit Singh Mann


  1. Inder Singh Ghagga; kivain kita ja rehai SIKHAN DA SARBNASH, 2ndrevised edition, November24, 2007.
  2. Sangat Singh; The Sikhs in History a millennium study, Fourth edition, January 2001.
  3. My special thanks to Ed Carroll for his expert help in editing this article.