The year 1638, was a year of sorrow and bereavement for Tegh Bahadur and his family. Many of his close relatives and friends died that year. Baba Gurditta, his elder brother; Bhai Bidhi Chand, a devoted disciple of Guru Hargobind; Babak, the talented rabab player; Joli Mal, another disciple of Guru Hargobind; his stepmother Marwahi; all died during this period. All these sorrowful events left a deep mark on Tegh Bahadur and he became even more silent and withdrawn. He had began to feel the futility of life.
All this while his father, Guru Hargobind, had a premonition that something dreadful was about to happen. Finally he sent a message to all his disciples, friends and relatives to gather at Kiratpur. Among the invitees was his grandson, Dhir Mal, who was not only insolent and arrogant but also very shrewd in nature. Since he possessed the original copy of the Granth Sahib, he proclaimed himself to be the next Guru. When he reached Kiratpur he openly declared himself the new Guru, but the crowd became furious, and asked Guru Hargobind to announce and appoint the next Guru.
It was then that Guru Hargobind installed Tegh Bahadurís elder brother, Baba Gurdittaís son, Har Rai at the seat of the Guru. When mother Nanaki heard about the new Guru, she was really upset at the Guruís decision. At this, Guru Hargobind told her that the time for Tegh Bahadur to become the Guru had not yet arrived. He assured her that her son was destined to shoulder great responsibilities, and perform unparalleled feats of bravery. But the right occasion had not come as yet. Then he entreated her to go to Bakala at his motherís place with Tegh Bahadur and Gujari.
However, on February 28, 1664, Guru Hargobind passed away. One month later, Bibi Nanaki with her son, Tegh Bahadur, and daughter-in-law, Gujari, left for Bakala in Amritsar as was desired by Guru Hargobind.
The place was aptly chosen since Bakala was a peaceful place where Tegh Bahadur could enjoy uninterrupted solitude and peace. He spent all his time in prayers, meditation and in chanting Godís name. very rarely did he go out, and give people his darshan for the next twenty years. Tegh Bahadur lived in Bakala in perfect isolation, away from the political and religious affairs of the world.
While Tegh Bahadur was meditating at Bakala, many important changes had taken place in the political scenario of the country. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was usurped by his son, Aurangzeb, and crowned emperor on June 5, 1659. The enemies of the Guru succeeded in instigating the emperor against Guru Har Rai, who was called to Delhi to be converted to Islam. However, it was his son, Ram Rai, who went to Delhi instead of him, and was disowned by Guru Har Rai because he misinterpreted the Guru Granth to the Mughal King. After this, Guru Har Rai appointed his second son, Har Krishan, as the eighth Guru.
All this while Tegh Bahadur meditated and strengthened himself for the great sacrifice he was to make, to uphold dharma or righteousness. When he was not praying or meditating, he busied himself with feeding the poor and helping the needy. He even worked with his own hands and shared his earnings with others.
On March 30, 1664, Guru Har Krishan died of smallpox. When his mother asked tearfully who the next successor would be, he whispered ĎBaba Bakalaí, meaning that the new Guru is at Bakala. But some selfish and hypocritical people began to call themselves Sodhi Baba and stayed in Bakala. They carried on wide campaigns for their claims, and their accomplices and hired men tried to prove them as real successors of the Guru. At that time, there were twenty-two imposters who declared themselves the successors of Guru Har Krishan.
The whole of the Sikh Sangat was restless and panicky in the absence of a true religious leader and guide, in such turbulent times. Most of the people of the Sikh Sangat believed in Tegh Bahadur and went to Bakala to meet him. They then pleaded with him to manifest his real form to the confused multitude. They believed that he was the true successor to the Guruís seat, and they requested him to take charge of it. Tegh Bahadur, who was deep in meditation, finally broke his trance. He assured them that he would accept the seat, but also told them to wait since the right time for it had not yet arrived.
Of all the contenders, Dhir Mal, the grandson of Guru Hargobind, was the most serious. When he heard of the Guruís death, he immediately went to Bakala and claimed his right to the Guruís seat. The Sikh Sangat felt a lot of pressure from his quarters for two major reasons. First, he had the holy book in his possession, and secondly, he was the direct descendant of the Guru. One day, he went to Tegh Bahadur and advised him not to run for the Guruís throne. When Tegh Bahadur did not say anything, he, in his fear and anger, spread false stories about Tegh Bahadur who all this while had retained his composure and was waiting for the right time.
Meanwhile, Bhai Gurditta, the high priest, visited Tegh Bahadur and told him that he was entrusted with the task of crowning him as their next Guru by Guru Har Krishan, Who had revealed to him that the light of Guru Nanak now shone in him. Then, on behalf of the eighth Guru, Har Krishan, he placed a five paise coin and a coconut before Tegh Bahadur and declared him the ninth Guru.
In all modesty and humility, Guru Tegh Bahadur accepted the seat of the Guru and the immense responsibility therewith, but he requested that the announcement of his succession be held back for sometime. When mother, Nanaki, protested that a Guru was needed to guide the lost and confused Sikh Sangat, he assured her by saying that the time had not yet arrived, and when it did, nothing could stop the truth from being known. All the people who had gathered there to listen to his sermon, bowed in obeisance and vowed to remain silent.