Guru Tegh Bahadur was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind and Bibi Nanki and was born at Amritsar on April 1, 1621. From a young age Tegh Bahadur was trained in the martial arts of swordsmanship and horse riding as well as religious training by the wise Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas. In February 1633 Tegh Bahadur was married to Gujari daughter of Lal Chand and Bishan Kaur. During his young years Tegh Bahadur fought along his fathers side but after Guru Hargobind's fierce and bloody battle in 1634 at Kartarpur he turned to the path of renunciation and meditation. When Guru Hargobind settled down at Kiratpur to live the rest of his life in peace, Tegh Bahadur spent nine years with his father before settling down at the isolated village of Bakala in 1656 and retired to a life of contemplation. He became known as "Tyag Mal" meaning "the Master of Renunciation". Here Tegh Bahadur would spend many long years in meditation and prayer.
Guru Hargobind did not choose Tegh Bahadur as his successor because the Sikhs needed a leader of men, something still lacking in his young son, who had now chosen a path of renunciation. Instead Guru Hargobind chose Guru Har Rai his grandson as his natural successor. Guru Har Rai in turn chose his youngest son Guru Harkrishan as his successor. When Guru Harkrishan had suddenly fallen ill at Delhi in 1664, before his death, being too weak to move or speak the Guru had said his successor was "Baba Bakala".
Following the untimely death of Guru Harkrishan large numbers of Sikhs flocked to the village of Bakala looking for the new Guru. When the Sikhs went in large numbers to Bakala to find the Guru, they were instead confronted by twenty two members of the Sodhi family, each claiming that they were the Guru and successor as named by Guru Harkrishan. The Sikhs were in a quandary as to who was really the true Guru?
Meanwhile a wealthy merchant Makhan Shah had his ships carrying valuable cargo caught in a fierce storm at sea. He vowed to offer five hundred gold coins to the Guru if his goods safely reached home. His wish was fulfilled and his merchandise safely arrived at their port. Makhan Shah immediately set our for Delhi where he received the tragic news that Guru Harkrishan had passed away and that his successor was at Bakala. Makhan Shah set out for Bakala to pay his homage to the Guru. When he finally got there he was confronted with all the same quandary as the rest of the Sikhs, who was the real Guru? Being a businessman Makhan Shah decided that he would pay homage to all of the twenty two claimants and placed two gold coins before each of them as tribute. When he had visited all of the claimants, a child pointed out to him that a holy man lived across the street. Makhan Shah decided that he may as well pay him tribute also. When Makhan Shah entered the house he found that Guru Tegh Bahadur was in meditation. He was told that Tegh Bahadur did not like to receive visitors but spent his time in meditation. Makhan Shah waited until he met the Guru and placed two gold coins before him. At this Guru Tegh Bahadur smiled and said to Makhan Shah, "I thought that you had pledged five hundred coins". Makhan Shah became so elated that he kissed the Gurus feet and started shouting from the rooftop "I've found the Guru, found the Guru!". All the Sikhs rushed to the house of the quiet saint and when they heard the story there was much rejoicing for many days. Thus the pious, humble saint Tegh Bahadur was acclaimed as being the true Guru of the Sikhs and natural successor of Guru Harkrishan.
Sikhs flocked to see the Guru and presented him with many gifts and offerings. One who was not so happy about the whole affair was the troublesome Dhir Mal, grandson of Guru Hargobind who had wanted people to acclaim him as the Guru since he was in possession of the Guru Granth Sahib written by Guru Arjan Dev. Dhir Mal became so angry that he planned an assassination attempt. He sent Shihan a masand (priest) loyal to him and some men to attack the Guru while he slept. Dhir Mal's men attacked the house of Guru Tegh Bahadur, shot the Guru and ransacked his belongings. Luckily Guru Tegh Bahadur was not seriously wounded. In retaliation loyal Sikhs raided Dhir Mal's house, looting it including the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib and presented all of the bounty to the Guru as revenge. Guru Tegh Bahadur believed in forgiveness and ordered all of his property returned, including the original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Tegh Bahadur now accepted the role of leading the Sikhs and set out on a number of missionary journeys. He visited Kiratpur and then made his way to the other great centers of Sikhism, Tarn Taran, Khadur Sahib, Goindwal and Amritsar. At Amritsar Guru Tegh Bahadur bathed in the sacred pool but he was refused entry into the Golden Temple which was under the control of Harji, grandson of that other famous troublemaker to the Gurus, Prithi Chand. Guru Tegh Bahadur then journeyed back to Kiratpur. Here he encountered some Sodhi family jealousy and decided to found a new township. The Guru acquired a tract of land from the raja of Kahlur and founded the town of Chak Nanaki in 1665, named in honour of his mother (later to be known as Anandpur Sahib). The Guru now continued his journeys to spread the messages and teachings of Sikhism among the masses across the land.