Tegh Bahadur would be a good guru. Therefore Guru Hargobind chose his grandson as his natural successor. The grandson in turn chose his own youngest son, Guru Harkrishan, as successor. Then Guru Harkrishan suddenly fell ill and on his deathbed said that "Baba Bakala" was his successor.
A large number of Sikhs went to the village of Bakala to find the new guru. However, there were 22 young men who claimed to be the next guru.
Meanwhile a wealthy merchant, Makhan Shah, was on his way home when his ships carrying valuable cargo were caught in a fierce storm at sea. The merchant vowed to offer five hundred gold coins to the Guru if his goods reached home safely. All the ships arrived safely in port. The merchant went straight to Delhi where he wanted to hand the 500 coins to the guru. He received the news that the guru had died, and travelled to Bakala to find the new guru.
The merchant discovered the chaos there and decided to give two coins to each of the 22 people who claimed to be the next guru.
Then a child told him about the holy man that lived across the street. The merchant found Tegh Bahadur, the man who did not succeed his father as guru, in meditation and waited. He eventually met Tegh Bahadur and placed two gold coins before him. Tegh Bahadur said "I thought that you had pledged five hundred coins".
The merchant ran out and told everyone that he had found the real guru, and there was much rejoicing.
Guru Tegh Bahadur travelled a lot to spread the messages and teachings of Sikhism. He was requested by custodians of the various temples that he visited to perform rituals and ceremonies for himself and his ancestors, but the Guru refused saying, "He who trusts in God and makes an honest living to share with others and injures no one, nor harbors ill-will against another need perform on other rituals. His soul ever stays in health. And, as for the ancestors, they gather the reward of what they themselves have sown and no one can bless or curse them after they are gone."
Emperor Aurengzeb wanted to convert the entire country to Islam. The emperor had no tolerance for other religions and proceeded on a brutal campaign of repression.
In 1665 he forbade Hindus to display illuminations at Diwali festivals. In 1671 he issued an order that only Muslims could be landlords of crown lands, and called upon provincial Viceroys to dismiss all Hindu clerks. In 1669 he issued a general order calling upon all governors of all provinces to destroy the schools and temples of the non-Muslims. In 1674 lands held by Hindus in Gujarat, in religious grants were all confiscated.
Some Hindu leaders requested the guru to intercede on their behalf. The Gurus still believed in the freedom of religion and the right of the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs to live in peace and practice their own religions. With this Guru Tegh Bahadur laid down the gauntlet in the fight for freedom of religion and told the Hindu representatives to inform emperor Aurangzeb that the Brahmins would gladly accept and embrace Islam if Guru Tegh Bahadur can be convinced to do so.
As soon as Aurangzeb heard the news he ordered the immediate arrest of the Guru.
Guru Tegh Bahadur and his party were arrested soon after they left Anandpur Sahib and taken in chains to Delhi. During his hearing Guru Tegh Bahadur told Aurangzeb: "Hinduism may not be my faith, and I may believe not in the supremacy of Veda or the Brahmins, nor in idol worship or caste or pilgrimages and other rituals, but I would fight for the right of all Hindus to live with honour and practice their faith according to their own rites. For me, there is only one religion - of God - and whosoever belongs to it, be he a Hindu or a Muslim, him I own and he owns me. I neither convert others by force, nor submit to force, to change my faith."
Aurangzeb was enraged and ordered Guru Tegh Bahadur to be forced to convert to Islam through torture or be killed. Guru Tegh Bahadur was tortured and saw much torture before he himself was beheaded, but he fought for religious freedom to the end.