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The martyrdom of Guru Arjan: The consequences of jealousy

To recall the story of Guru Arjan and to recognize the consequences of jealousy.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To recall the story of Guru Arjan and to recognize the consequences of jealousy.

Preparation and materials


  1. The story of Guru Arjan

    Leader  Guru Arjan was born in 1563, in the country we call India. He was the youngest son of the fourth Guru, Ram Das. As he got older, his father asked him to become the next Guru in the respected line of Sikh leaders.

    Guru Arjan was a very humble and holy man. He became a great spiritual leader. He had many followers, who were captivated by his teaching. But three men in particular were all jealous of him.

    First, his older brother, Prithi Chand.

    Reader 1  It’s just not fair. I should be the next Guru, not him. I’m the oldest son. My brother has done so many amazing things since he has become our leader. He has laid the foundation of the Golden Temple. He has travelled all over the Punjab and everyone loves him. I’m so jealous. That should be me.

    Leader  What did jealousy make this older brother do?

    –  He persuaded Sulhi Khan, a revenue officer of the Mughal court, to raid Amritsar, where Guru Arjan was living, and force Guru Arjan out of town.
    –  He tried to persuade everyone that he was the real Guru and not his brother.
    –  He plotted the murder of Guru Arjan’s only child, Hargobind. The attempts at assassination all failed.
    –  He composed his own hymns and pretended that they were written by Guru Nanak and the other Gurus.

    The second very jealous man was a wealthy Hindu banker, whose name was Chandu Shah. He was jealous of Guru Arjan’s popularity and reputation and wanted to be a part of it so he planned that his daughter should marry the Guru’s son, Hargobind. But Guru Arjan would not allow the match.

    Reader 2  It’s just not fair. What right does this Guru have to refuse to allow my daughter to marry his son? Who does he think he is? Does he know how rich I am? Does he know how important I am? I’m successful in business and yet the only person anyone talks about is him. I’m so jealous. It makes me mad.

    Leader  What did jealousy make this rich man do?

    Chandu Shah told Emperor Akbar that Guru Arjan had compiled a book which contained harmful information about Muslims and Hindus. But the Emperor could not find anything wrong with Guru Arjan’s holy book.

    The third very jealous man was the Emperor himself. When Emperor Akbar died, Jahangir became emperor. He was not a good man and spent his time pursuing pleasure and drinking. Emperor Jahangir was jealous of the Guru’s popularity.

    Reader 3  It’s just not fair. I am the new emperor. I have all the power and authority. And yet everyone is following this Guru wherever he goes. They listen to every word he says. They follow his example. He should not be so popular. I’m so jealous. I will find a way to punish him.

    Leader  What did jealousy make this emperor do?

    To please the Muslim people in India, who did not approve of Emperor Jahangir’s behaviour, he had Guru Arjan arrested. Some say the arrest was on the grounds that Guru Arjan had given a blessing to a Muslim. Some say it was because he was unable to pay a large fine. Some say it was because he would not change the words in the holy book.

    For whatever reason, Guru Arjan was thrown in jail and tortured. He was forced to sit on a red-hot iron sheet. Burning hot sand was poured over his body. The Guru was dipped in boiling water. He was tortured in this way for five days. He bore all this calmly and would not agree to change the words in his holy book.

    On May 30 1606 Guru Arjan asked for permission to bathe in the river Ravi which was next to the Mughal fort. By then his body was covered in blisters from the torture and walking was difficult. The Guru walked towards the river, praying as he went. He said goodbye to his many followers, who were watching. He walked peacefully into the river and was gone for ever, his body carried away by the currents.
  2. The anniversary of the death of Guru Arjan is on June 16. Every year this date is remembered by Sikhs all over the world.

    It would be good for us all to remember this story and every day of our lives to be aware of the very bad consequences of jealousy.
  3. Jealousy can make us say unkind and spiteful things.
    Jealousy can make us try to get someone else into trouble.
    Jealousy can make us lie and steal and cheat.
    Jealousy can make us want to hit and hurt someone else.
    Jealousy can make us spoil someone else’s work.
    Jealousy can be dangerous if it is left to get out of control.
    We need to recognize and deal with jealousy as soon as we feel it in our hearts.

Time for reflection

Let us take a few minutes now to reflect on what we have heard today.


(Light a candle)

Let us think about a time when we’ve been jealous.

About the people we may still be jealous of.

Let us try to overcome that feeling:

–  by reflecting on what we have
–  by reflecting on what we’re good at
–  by thinking about how much our families and friends like us for who we are, not for what we have.


‘One more step’ (Come and Praise, 47)

Publication date: June 2012   (Vol.14 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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