Bhai Mati Dass and Bhai Sati Dass both brothers were sons of Bhai Hira Nand. Their ancestor, Gautam Dass was a resident of village Kariala in Jehlum district. He was initiated into Sikh faith by Guru Arjan Dev. Pleased at his services, the Guru had bestowed on him the title of ‘Bhai’ (brother) which continues in their family to this day.
Their grandfather, Bhai Praga, had been given command of a ‘Jatha’ (unit) by Guru Hargobind in the first battle with the Mughals in 1628 A.D. He died of deep wounds sustained in that battle. After that, Bhai Hira Nand presented himself in the service of Guru Har Rai. Before his death in 1657 A.D., he left Bhai Mati Dass and Bhai Sati Dass, elder of his four sons, to serve the Guru’s institution. In accordance with the command of their father, they started serving the Guru’s institution with heart and soul.
Bhai Mati Dass and Bhai Sati Dass accompanied Guru Har Krishan when he went to Delhi on invitation from Aurangzeb. After the merger of the Guru into the Supreme Being on the 30th March, 1664 A.D., both the brothers went to village Bakala. On the manifestation of Guru Tegh Bahadur, both the brothers presented themselves in his service. When Vhir Mall could not become the Guru, he made a fruitless attempt to shoot the Guru in collaboration with Shihan Masand and his gang. After that he had taken away valuable items from the Guru’s institution to his camp. At that time both the brothers gave all the help to Makhan Shah to present Dhir Mall and Shthan Masand in bondage before the Guru.
One day, Durga Mall, the Diwan (chief minister) of Guru’s institution requested the Guru, “Respected Guru ! My body, soul and worldly wealth are all at your service but it is becoming difficult for me to carry out the duty of Diwan due to old age. These two nephews are in your service who are trustworthy and faithful sons. If you deem fit, bestow the elder Mati Dass, the honour to serve as Diwan and the younger Sati Dass as Wazir (public affair minister).” Accepting the request of Diwan Durga Mall, the Guru entrusted the service of Diwan to Bhai Mati Dass and Wazir to Bhai Sati Dass.
In order to bring the whole of India under one faith, Aurangzeb ordered in 1674 A.D., to convert Hindus to Islam by force from the Kashmir side. Before bowing their heads before the sword of Sher Afgan Khan, the Governor of Kashmir, the prominent Brahmins of Kashmir led by Pandit Kirpa Ram appeared before the Guru at Anandpur on the 25th May, 1675 A.D., and explained about their helplessness. The Guru knew that weak and terrified people do not become brave by listening to episodes of bravery. Fearless and great leadership is needed to make them fearless. So the Guru said to them, “Go and tell the Governor that Guru Tegh Bahadur is our leader. If you convert him to Islam, we shall become Muslims of our own accord.” On getting this message, Aurangzeb ordered the arrest of the Guru. For courting arrest, the Guru started towards Agra from Anandpur on the 11th July, 1675 A.D. At Agra, when the soldiers came to arrest the Guru, both the brothers came forward to offer themselves for arrest flrst.
On receipt of the second order from Aurangzeb, the Guru was asked to embrace Islam. The Guru refused. In order to intimidate the Guru, the qazis (Islamic magistrates) made a plan to torture to death, the Sikhs arrested with the Guru before his eyes. They thought that the Guru would embrace Islam out of fear on seeing the Sikhs murdered. The qazis decreed to cut Bhai Mati Dass with a saw first of all.
Hearing the order of the qazis, Bhai Mati Dass prayed to the Guru, “O True King ! bless me so that I may do my duty by sacfiflcing myself for the glory of the faith.” After the Guru had blessed him, the qazis asked Bhai Mati Dass, “Brother, embrace Islam and enjoy the pleasures provided by the goveInment. Moreover when you die as a Muslim, you will go to heaven where there will be streams of milk, many kinds of wine to drink and beautiful women to enjoy. If you do not embrace Islam, your body will be sawn into two.” Bhai Mati Dass replied, “I can sacrifice hundreds of such heavens for my faith. I don’t need women nor wine. I see all the happiness in the path of my faith.” After his refusal, the qazis asked him his last wish, to which he replied, ‘When I am being cut with the saw, let my face be towards my mentor so that I may behold my Guru till my last breath and he may keep on seeing me so that he may be convinced how happily I reach my last destination.” By the order of the qazis, the executioners sawed Bhai Mati Dass in two on the 8th November, 1675 A.D., in Chandani Chowk, Delhi.
On the 10th November, 1675 A.D., the qazis ordered Bhai Sati Dass to be wrapped in cotton and burnt. Before being wrapped in cotton, the qazis asked Bhai Sati Dass, “Save your life by embracing Islam and live in pleasure.” Bhai Sati Dass replied, ‘You cannot understand that my pleasure and happiness lie only in obeying the command of my Guru. It does not lie in saving this life which must end one day.” At this reply, the executioners wrapped Bhai Sati Dass in cotton, poured oil over it and set fire to it. Bhai Sati Dass remained calm while burning till his last breath and remained true to his resolve.