Bhai Mati Das Ji is one of the greatest martyrs in Sikh history. He along with his younger brother Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dyal Das, all disciples of the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621–1675), were executed along with him at the Kotwali(police-station) near the Sunehri Masjid in the Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi, under the express orders of emperor Aurangzeb.
Bhai Mati Das was a Mohyal Brahmin of the Chhibber clan. He belonged to the village of Karyala, a stronghold of the Chhibbers, in the Jhelum District in Punjab (Pakistan), about ten kilometres from Chakwal on the road to the Katas Raj Temple Complex. The village stands on the top of the Surla hills. This part of the country is known as Dhani meaning rich. A few kilometres away are the Salt Mines and Coal Mines of Dandot. The Katas lake is beautiful. Legend connects it to the Mahabharata. It is believed to be the very pool where the Pandava, Yudhishtira was tested by his father, Lord Yama/Dharma in the form of a Yaksha. A great Hindu fair used to be held there up to 1947.
Bhai Mati Das was a member of the Chhiber Brahmin family but he resided in Kaimbowal village (now Longowal in Sangrur District, Punjab). Longowal is a Nanka village and birthplace of Bhai Mati Das. He was related to Vashists of the family Longowal, Bhai Diyal Das, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Jati Das and Bhai Bal Mukand (brother of Bhai Mati Dass).
Devotion to the Gurus
Mati Das was the son of Hira Nand, a disciple of Guru Har Gobind, under whom he had fought in many battles. He survived the Guru, and a little before his death he had entrusted his two sons, Mati Das and Sati Das to the care of Guru Har Rai, who had assured the dying man of his full attention and help. Both the lads remained attached to the Guru\'s family at Kiratpur. When Guru Har Krishan was summoned to Delhi by Aurangzeb, both the brothers, Mati Das and Sati Das, were present in his entourage along with Dyal Das and Gurditta, a descendant of Bhai Budha (different from Baba Gurditta, the son of Guru Hargobind, brother of Guru Teg Bahadur and father of Guru Har Rai).
Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji
On Guru Har Krishan\'s death at Delhi, these two brothers were included in the deputation of five men containing Dyal Das and Gurditta to declare the nomination of Teg Bahadur as the ninth Guru at the village of Bakala where the new Guru was then residing. The Guru was pleased to offer the two important portfolios of finance and home departments to Mati Das and Sati Das respectively. Both knew Persian well, and were quite familiar with the working of the Guru\'s durbar. The departmnent of household affairs was entrusted to Dyal Das.
The two brothers accompanied Guru Teg Bahadur during his journey to Assam. Guru Tegh Bahadur bought a hillock near the village of Makhowal five miles north of Kiratpur and established a new town, which he named as Anandpur (the abode of bliss). Mati Das and Sati Das were present at the foundation of Anandpur. The Guru\'s council of administration then consisted of Mati Das, Sati Das, Dyal Das and Gurditta. When the Guru was arrested and taken to Delhi, these four persons followed the Guru.
At Delhi, the Guru and his four companions were summoned into the council chamber of the Red Fort. The Guru was asked numerous questions on religion, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. It was suggested to the Guru that he should embrace Islam. On the Guru\'s emphatic refusal to abjure his faith, he was asked why he was called Teg Bahadur (gladiator or Knight of the Sword; before this, his name had been Tyag Mal). Bhai Mati Das immediately replied that the Guru had won the title by inflicting a heavy blow on the imperial forces at the young age of fourteen. He was reprimanded for his breach of etiquette and outspokenness. As Mati Das was a Brahmin, the Guru was asked why he had courted the company of such men when he did not believe in caste, and why he was defending the Brahmins of Kashmir. The Guru replied that when a person became a Sikh, he lost his caste. As for the Kashmiri Pandits, it was his duty to raise his voice against cruelty and injustice. The Guru and his companions were ordered to be imprisoned and tortured until they agreed to embrace Islam.
After a few days, Guru Teg Bahadur and three of his companions were produced before the Qazi of the city. Gurditta had managed to escape. He remained in hiding in the city, and in spite of all the efforts of the Government, he could not be traced. The Qazi turned to Mati Das first and asked him to embrace Islam. He refused to do so. He was condemned to an instantaneous death.
The executioners were called and the Guru and all the three of his companions were made to sit at the place of the execution. Bhai Mati Das approached the Guru with folded hands and asked for his blessings, saying that he was happy to be the first to achieve martyrdom.
The Guru blessed him telling that they must resign themselves cheerfully to the will of the Lord. He praised him for his lifelong single-minded devotion to him and his cause. With tears in his eyes, he bade him farewell saying his sacrifice would occupy an abiding place in history. Mati Das touched the Guru\'s feet, embraced his friend and brother, and came to his place.
Mati Das while standing erect was tied between two posts. He was asked if he had any parting words, to which Mati Das answered, "I request only that my head be turned toward my Guru as I am executed." Two executioners placed a double-handed saw on his head. Mati Das serenely uttered "Ek Onkar" and started reciting the Japji Sahib, the great morning prayer of the Sikhs. He was sawn across from head to loins. It is said that even as the body was being sawn into two, the Japji continued to reverberate from each part until it was all over.
Dyal Das and Sati Das
Dyal Das abused the Emperor and his courtiers for this infernal act. He was tied up like a round bundle and thrown into a huge cauldron of boiling oil. He was roasted alive into a block of charcoal. Sati Das condemned these brutalities. He was hacked to pieces limb by limb. The Guru witnessed all this savagery with divine calm.
Shri Guru Teg Bahadur\'s Joti Jot
Mati Das, Dyal Das and Sati Das were tortured and executed on three consecutive days.
Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded by an executioner called Jalal-ud-din Jallad, who belonged to the town of Samana in present-day Haryana. The spot of the execution was under a banyan tree (the trunk of the tree and well near-by where he took a bath are still preserved), opposite the Sunheri Masjid near the Kotwali in Chandni Chowk where he was lodged as a prisoner, on November 11, 1675.
His head was carried by Bhai Jaita, a disciple of the Guru, to Anandpur where the nine-year old Guru Gobind Singh cremated it(The gurdwara at this spot is also called Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib).The body, before it could be quartered, was stolen under the cover of darkness by Lakhi Shah Vanjara, another disciple who carried it in a cart of hay and cremated it by burning his hut. At this spot, the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib stands today. Later on, the Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib was built at Chandni Chowk at the site of Guru’s martyrdom.
Bhai Mati Das\' legacy
In recognition of the devotion and supreme sacrifice made by Mati Das, Guru Teg Bahadur bestowed the title of Bhai on him. In course of time, all Chhibbers belonging to the village of Karyala adopted this title.
Bhai Mati Das occupies a premier position in the pantheon of Sikh martyrs.