Chandu Shah was a govenor of Lahore who was responsible for the torture of Guru Arjan Dev. He was a wealthy banker and revenue official at the Mughal court at Lahore, and was born an upper-caste Hindu. He earned the resentment of sikhs over some very disparaging comments he made when his family priest suggested that Guru Arjan's son, Har Gobind would be the best choice as a husband for his daughter who was of marriageable age. Chandu Shah laughed at the suggestion and remarked that the Guru was little more than a beggar who lived off money given to him by his followers. Word of the remarks got back to the local Sangat, who felt injured and passed Chandu's remarks on to Guru Arjan.
Later with his aging daughter still unmarried and his wife, who had favoured the match with the Guru's son, still bothering him, Chandu Shah also came to see the match as beneficial. So Guru Arjan was approached by Chandu's representatives with the proposed match. Knowing of the words Chandu had spoken the Guru turned down the proposal.
Where he had once verbally be-smeared the Sikh Guru's face—Chandu Shah now felt he was the one with a Kala Mukh (besmeared, darkened face). The rich and powerful man who was accustomed to getting things his way now became a deadly foe of the Guru and began to conspire against him. He got his chance when the tolerant Emperor Akbar who died on October 12, 1605 choosing his grandson Khusro to follow him on the throne. Salim, his son was a drinker and pleasure lover, true to the name he soon took he siezed the Mughal throne choosing the name Jahangir (World grabber or Conqueror of the World). Now Emperor Jahangir came to Lahore in April 1606 in pursuit of his son Prince Khusrau who had was still trying to take the throne as his grandfather had wished.
Chandu Shah and other detractors of the Sikhs stirred up anew the notion that the Holy Granth of the Sikhs contained blasphemies against both the Hindu and Muslim religions. It was their same old argument that Akbar had found spurious, but this time the fact that Guru Arjan had met with Kushrau and encouraged him was used to raise Jahangir's suspicions. Guru Arjan was summoned to Lahore to meet with Jahangir. Guru Arjan was arrested on the charge that he had received and blessed the rebel prince's attempts. Guru Arjan, a non-violent man, had merely given his blessings to the young prince and had taken no part in the prince's scheming. The Emperor levied a fine of 2 lakhs of rupees and told the Guru to remove all references to the Muslim and Hindu religions from the Holy Granth. Guru Arjan refused to pay the fine or to alter the Holy words in praise of God. Emprisoned, the Guru was beaten. Soon the Sikhs learned of the fine and started to raise the funds to to free Guru Arjan, but Guru Arjan would have non of it, telling them he had done no wrong and would not pay a fine.
The heat of the summer growing unbearable Emperor Jahangir hurried off to the cooler climes of his beloved Kashmir, leaving the Guru's fate to Murtaza Khan the Govenor of Lahore. The Emperor told him to deal with the Guru in whatever manner he chose. At this point Chandu Shah saw the oppurtunity he had been waiting for. He pressed the Govenor to demand the funds the Emperor had levied. The Quazi issued an injuction demanding that the Guru pay the fine and remove the references to the Muslim and Hindu religions or be tortured to death. Mian Mir the Sufi Sant tried to intervene but Guru Arjan asked him not to interfere in God's workings, that things would end as God intended.
Murtaza Khan, the governor of Lahore, was to carry out the sentence, but, according to Sikh chronicles, it was Chandu Shah who took charge of the holy prisoner and had him tortured with the cruellest of torments for days.
It is said that Guru Har Gobind refused to don the Seli of Guru Nanak, which had passed to each Guru. Guru Har Gobind, instead, asked for a sword which Bhai Budha, unfamiliar with swords, put on the wrong side of the new Guru. The Guru noticed and asked for another sword. Thus armed with two swords he named them Miri and Piri. He then started to shape the Sikhs into a trained military force which could defend themselves against injustice. He also started the construction of the Akal Takht.
Meanwhile , after Jahangir's return, Chandu Shah, with his daughter still unmarried and still angry over his rejection, renewed his intrigues against the Sikhs this time (incorrectly) warning Jahangir that the young Guru was seeking to take revenge against Jahangir for his father's death. This time events turned against Chandu and he ended up being turned over for punishment, not to Murtaza Khan but to Guru Har Gobind by Jahangir. Dragged through the streets of Lahore by the angry Sikhs who had witnessed the atrocities perpetrated against their beloved Guru Arjan, Chandu Shah died a miserable death.
The final blow came, ironically, from the very person whom Chandu Shah had employed to pour hot sand on Guru Arjan's blistered body.
For related reading see:
- Martyrdom of Guru Arjan
- Bandi Chhorh Divas
- Gurdwara Sher Shikar (Machkund) where Guru Har Gobind saved the life of Jahangir
- Gurdwara Majnu ka Tilla where Guru Har Gobind Stayed before and after Gwalior Fort
3. Sahib SINGH, Jivan-Britant Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Amritsar, 1979
4. Max Arthur Macauliffe , The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909
5. Ganda Singh, Guru Arjan`s MARTYRDOM Re-interpreted. Patiala, 1969