FATHER : Guru Ram Das Ji
MOTHER : Bhani ji
DATE OF BIRTH : 04/15/1563
PLACE OF BIRTH : Govindwal, Amritsar
WIFE : Ganga Ji
CHILDREN : Har Gobind Sahib Ji
AGE, YEAR & TIME AT GUR GADHI : 09/01/1581, 25 year
REGIMES : Akbar & Jahangir
CONTRIBUTION OF BAANIS : Sukhmani Sahib, BarahMaha, Bava Akhri & 2312 Shabads in 30 Raags
AGE : 43
JYOTI-JOT DAY : 05/30/1606
JYOTI JOT PLACE : Lahore
Guru Arjan was born in Goindwal, a small town in Amritsar district, on April 15, 1563. He was the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and Bibi Bhani. As a child, one day he found his way to the bed of Guru Amar Das who was then resting. His mother ran to fetch the child before he could disturb the Guru, but he had already awakened the Guru, who revealed,”Let him come to me; ‘yeh mera dohita bani ka bohita howega’- this grandson of mine shall be a ship to take mankind across the ocean of the world.” Guru Arjan was married to Ganga, daughter of Krishen Chand, a resident of Meo village near Phillor in Jullundhur district. The marriage took place in 1589 when he was about 26 years old. Guru Ram Das began excavation of two tanks named Santokhsar and Amritsar and started the foundation of the city of Ramdaspur. After his father, Guru Arjan applied himself to the task of completing the tanks and extending the city. It was his practice to go every day and superintend the work.
Guru Nanak during his missionary tours had established Sangats at the various places throughout the country. The connection with the center was kept up by the constant visits of the Sikhs to the Guru. During Guru Amar Das’s time the missionary work became more regular and methodical. He divided the Sikh spiritual kingdom into twenty-two Manjis. Guru Ram Das established the nucleus of a new order of missionaries called Masands. The word Masand seems to have come from ‘Mas Nad’ which is shorter form of ‘Masnedi-Ali’ or His Excellency, the title which the Mughal Governors often held. The purpose of this organization was to spread the Sikh faith at a rapid pace and also to collect money for the construction of tanks and the city of Ramdaspur. Guru Arjan organized Masand system afresh. He appointed new Masands of integrity and sincerity to look after the secular as well as spiritual affairs of the Sikhs. Masands were required to collect Daswandh (one-tenth of income) from the Sikhs which was then contributed towards the Guru’s treasury (Golak) for the maintenance of the Sikh temples. Some writers are of the opinion that Daswandh was raised under compulsion. Daswandh was never raised under any pressure nor it was considered ‘a tax’. Whatever the Sikhs contributed or are contributing even today, is totally out of free will, love and devotion.
Masands were required to pay annual visits to Amritsar at the Baisakhi fair to receive instructions from the Guru and to hand over the amount of Daswandh collected. Regular accounts of these offerings were kept and receipts were issued. Apart from financial duties, Masands were vigorous preachers. For the ceremony of initiation the ideal Charanamrit was the one administered by the Guru himself. Since it was not possible for the Guru to be present physically everywhere, the authority was delegated to the local missionaries to enrol new members of the Sikh Sangat by administering Charanamrit prepared by themselves in the prescribed manner. It attracted a large number of converts. During the time of Guru Arjan, there was hardly any place in India where the Sikhs were not found. Masands worked very hard to propagate Sikhism in every corner of the country.
COMPLETION OF CONSTRUCTION WORK:
During the construction of the Harimander, Guru arjan spotted bright red bricks and enquired that how these bricks had been produced. He was told that Bhai Bahilo had carried all the rubbish of the town on his head to the kiln to prepare the bricks in such a perfect manner. Guru Arjan sent for Bhai Bahilo and uttered, Bhai Bahilo, the first and the foremost.
Guru Arjan completed the unfinished work of excavation of tanks- Santokhsar and Amritsar. Bhai Buddha being the most trustworthy disciple, was appointed to supervise the work of construction. Santokhsar was completed in 1587-89. Having completed the tank of nectar, the Guru laid down the foundation of Hari Mandar which is now called Golden Temple, in the center of the tank. It is said that the Sikhs represented to the Guru that Hari Mandar should be the tallest building in the neighborhood. The Guru explained,”Hari Mandar should be the lowest because what is humble, shall be exalted. The more a tree is covered with fruit, the more its branches descend to the earth.”
Mian Mir, a famous Muslim saint, was a friend and a devotee of the Guru. The Guru asked Mian Mir to lay the foundation stone of Hari Mandar. Thus, Mian Mir laid the brick in January, 1589. The head mason moved the brick to place it in order. Whereupon the Guru prophesied that since the brick was moved by the mason, the foundation of the temple would be laid again in the coming times. His words were subsequently fulfilled as Ahmad Shah Abdali destroyed the temple and desecrated the tank in 1763. However two years later, the great army of the Khalsa recovered possession of the temple, relaid its foundation and reconstructed it.
Hindu temples were closed on three sides and their entrances were generally towards the east while Muslim mosques had entrances towards the west. Hari Mandar, the holy Sikh temple had entrance on all four sides. This denotes that God was in all the directions; and secondly four doors in the four directions (east, west, north and south) meant that all the four castes would have equal access to the temple. Whereas the Hindu temples were only open to the chosen classes, the Golden temple was open to all who would seek God. Muslim mosques were open only to Muslim men, the Golden temple was open equally to all men, women and children, irrespective of caste, creed, race, color, sex, religion or nationality. The Adi Granth, Sikh holy Scripture, was placed in the center of the temple.
When the construction of the tank and the temple was completed, Guru Arjan uttered the following Sabad in joy and gratitude:
“The Creator stood in the midst of the work,
And not a hair of any man’s head was touched.
The Guru maketh my ablution successful.
And by repeating God’s Name, sins shall depart.
saints, Ramdas tank is beautiful,
He who batheth in it shall save himself and the souls of his family.
The whole world shall congratulate him,
And he shall obtain the reward his heart desireth.
He who while meditating on his God
Cometh to bathe here shall be made safe and whole.
He who batheth in the saints’ tank
Shall obtain final salvation. Meditating on God’s Name,
He shall not suffer transmigration.
He to whom God is merciful Knoweth divine knowledge.
His cares and anxieties shall depart
Who seeketh the protection of Baba Nanak and God.”
(Sorath Mohalla 5, p-623)
Golden Temple, Amritsar
NOTE: It should be pointed out here that bathing alone in the tank of Golden Temple cannot give the desired salvation. The above Sabad should not be taken for any pilgrimage of rituals. It does not mean a mere journey to holy place. Sikh faith rejects all ceremonial acts. In fact there are two tanks in Amritsar- outer tank and inner tank. First one is the outer tank full of water. It is customary for a Sikh to take bath every morning- to clean and purify his body before going in the ‘presence of God’, that is meditation. Thus outer tank in Amritsar serves that purpose. A Sikh’s mission does not complete here. Guru Amar Das confirms this:
‘If mind is sinful, everything is sinful,
By washing the body, mind will not become pure.’
(Wadhans Mohalla 3, p-558)
Then there is the inner tank called Hari Mandar. That tank is ‘Gurbani’- Guru Granth Sahib which is full of ‘Praise and Prayer’- NAM. After washing outerself in the outer tank, a Sikh goes to the inner tank to cleanse his sinful mind in the tank of Nam. That is what Guru Nanak calls pilgrimage:
“Pilgrimage is Nam”
(Dhanasri Mohalla 1 Chhant, p-687)
Without Nam immersing in water countless times, will not deliver salvation. This process of cleansing sinful mind in the inner tank of Nam is the pre-requisite for spiritual growth. It leads to graduation to spiritual consciousness- a breakthrough to Eternal illumination. After cleaning his inner and outer-self, a Sikh realizes the glory of Nam and enters a stage of eternal bliss, and thereby merges with the Eternal Being. A body is dead without life, and life itself is dead without Nam.
What is then Amritsar?
Then there was no sign of the city of Amritsar, Guru Nanak asked his disciples to bathe in ‘Amritsar’:
“Bikhia mal jai amritsar navo Gur santokh paya.”
(Maru Mohalla 1, p-1043)
‘All sins are washed away by bathing in Amritsar And by Guru’s grace, contentment is obtained.’
(Translation of the above)
“Gur sagar amritsar, jo echhai so phal pai.”
(Maru Mohalla 1, p-1011-12) ‘Divine Word (Gurbani) is Amritsar Whosoever batheth in it, will get his
(Translation of the above)
“Untar nirmal amritsar nai.” (Asa Mohalla 3, p-363)
‘Impurities of mind are washed away by bathing in Amritsar.’
(Translation of the above)
“Undro trisna agan bujhi Har amritsar nata.”
(Mohalla 3-pauri, p-510)
‘The inner fire of desires gone When bathed in Amritsar.’
(Translation of the above)
“Meil gaee man nirmal hoa Amritsar tirath nai.”
(Mohalla 3, p-587)
‘Impurities gone and mind becometh pure When batheth in the pilgrimage of Amritsar.’
(Translation of the above)
All the above verses of Guru Nanak and Guru Amar Das give reference of ‘Amritsar’ when there was no trace of the city or the tank of Amritsar. That means that Amritsar actually and literally means Tank of Nectar which is Gurbani, the Divine Word. Thus pilgrimage of Amritsar means the pilgrimage of one’s mind in the Divine Word, the NAM. Without Nam, bathing hundreds of times cannot purge mind of its impurities and therefore salvation cannot be achieved:
“Mal haumai dhoti kivai na uterai je sau tirath nai.”
(Sri Rag Mohalla 3, p-39)
The Guru says that without Nam, all other acts to attain salvation, are futile:
“Nam bina phokat sabh karma jiun bajigar bharm bhulai.”
(Parbhati Mohalla 1, p-1343)
‘Without Nam, all acts are futile As an actor’s role in drama, maketh him not real.’
(Translation of the above)
Bhai Banno’s services in the construction of the Harimandir are significant. On its completion, someone asked Guru Ji as to who should be served the platter first according to the established practices. Guru Ji said, Whoever has done service everyday by remaining modest and keeping his low profile. Guru Arjan honoured Bhai Banno by placing the first platter of the feast before him.
When the tank and the temple were completed, there were great rejoicing. The enormous exertions and sacrifices were made by the Sikhs. The Guru honored all those Sikhs who had put in dedicated service to ensure the completion of the projects. Eminent among those people were: Bhai Buddha, Bhai Bhagtu, Bhai Bahla, Bhai Kalyana, Bhai Ajab, Bhai Ajaib, Bhai Umar Shah, Bhai Sangho, Bhai Salho and Bhai Jetha. Bhai Buddha was made incharge of the Hari Mandar. Bhai Bhagtu was instructed to preach Sikh doctrine in the Malwa region and Bhai Salho was made the superintendent of the city to look after its development. City of Ramdaspur was, in the course of time, called Amritsar. Because of Guru’s residence and the central place of worship, Amritsar became the center of the Sikh activities.
ANIMOSITY OF PRITHI CHAND:
As referred to in the previous chapter, Prithi Chand was superseded and the Guruship was conferred on his youngest brother by his father, Guru Ram Das. Upon this Prithi Chand adopted an attitude of open defiance. He met Sulhi Khan, a revenue officer of Lahore province and told him that he was filing a complaint to the Emperor against his youngest brother for superseding him. Next he conspired with the headmen of the area who then told Guru Arjan that being the eldest son, Prithia had the right to the property of his father. The Guru gave the property to Prithia and some of it to Mahadev, the other brother, and reserved the voluntary offerings of the Sikhs for himself.
Prithi Chand in alliance with Sulhi Khan found ample opportunities to harass the Guru. However Wazir Khan, Akbar’s assistant prime minister, interposed on behalf of the Guru and prevailed on Sulhi Khan to bring the two brothers to a compromise. By listening to Guru’s Sukhmani (The song of Eternal peace compiled by Guru Arjan), Wazir Khan was restored to perfect health from dropsy ailment. This was the reason why Wazir Khan supported the Guru’s cause. Although the compromise had been affected, yet Prithia continued to create every possible trouble for the Guru. Ultimately the urdu decided to leave Amritsar and make a tour of Majha, an area between the rivers Ravi and Beas.
PREACHING TOURS OF GURU:
The Guru first visited Khadur and then proceeded to Sarhauli where he sought to obtain land to build a dwelling for himself.
A Sikh from the village Bhaini invited the Guru to visit him. When he arrived there, it was late at night. The wife of the Sikh prepared a dish of broken bread with butter and sugar and laid it before the Guru. He enjoyed the dish prepared with love and devotion. He stayed there a few more days and in return he gave the village his own Chola and renamed the village as Chola Sahib.
The Guru then visited village Khanpur, situated between Goindwal and the present city of Tarn Taran. He was accompanied by five Sikhs including Bidhi Chand and Bhai Gurdas. It was a cold night and wintry winds were blowing hard. Bidhi Chand saw a lofty building and requested the Guru to go to that building, but the Guru objected saying that it would be better to stay where they were rather than to go to a place where evil people were dwelling. Bidhi Chand did not agree with the Guru and went to the lofty building and asked the owners for shelter, which they refused and called the Guru and his Sikhs hypocrites. Hema, a devout Sikh of that village, came and requested the Guru to visit his poor dwelling and bless it with his holy presence. Seeing his love and devotion, the Guru accepted his hospitality. Hema cooked and supplied his best food for the party. He took his sole blanket and put it under the Guru as bedding, who seeing Hema’s devotion uttered the following Sabad:
“Very beautiful is the hut in which God’s praises are sung, While the mansion in which God is forgotten is of no avail. There is a pleasure even in poverty when in the company of saints God is remembered, May that grandeur which is bound up with mammon, perish! Blessed is turning a handmill or wearing a coarse blanket, if the heart is happy and contented. That empire is of no avail which conferreth not satisfaction, Those who wander even naked in the love of one God obtain honor.
Vain are silks and satins, attachment to which maketh man covetous.
Everything is in Thy power, O God; Thou actest and causest to act.
May Nanak obtain the gift of remembering Thee at every breath.”
(Rag Suhi Mohalla 5, p-745)
The Guru stayed there for some time. During his stay, Hema obtained his desire and went to his final rest. After Guru’s departure, the Emperor’s viceroy, who for some reason became dissatisfied with the inhabitants of Khanpur, sent his army and razed the village to the ground and massacred its chief residents. From there he proceeded to the village of Khaira where he was attracted by the natural environments. He had a very warm welcome from the headmen. They afterwards assisted him in obtaining land from the villagers on which he laid down the foundation of what is now the famous city of Tarn Taran; and he proceeded to construct a tank there. This happened in 1590. The Guru, at a great expense, built brick-kiln for baking the bricks. The local officer named Nur-ud-din seized the bricks for the construction of a Sarai that was being built at Government expense. The Sikhs resented and requested the Guru to write to the Emperor against this high- handedness of Nur-ud-din, but the Guru refused to take notice of the outrage. He left quietly and waited for better times for the completion of the project. After sometimes the tank was completed.
The Guru then crossed the river Beas and proceeded to Jullundhur area where he purchased land to build city to be named as Kartarpur (city of Creator). He with his own hands cut the first sod for the construction of the city and a well to supply water to the inhabitants. The well was called Gangsar.
He went to Nakka at the invitation of his devotees. He visited Khemkaran, Chunian and other villages. Then he reached Jambar and remained there for some time. He made many converts in that area.
At the invitation of his Sikhs, the Guru went to Lahore. People of all classes flocked to see him. Jogi Shambhunath, Shah Husain, Shah Suleman and others came to see the Guru beseeching soul-saving religious instruction. The Guru uttered the following Sabad on that occasion:
“O wise men, think of the Lord in your hearts,
The true King, the Releaser from bondage, dwelleth in the hearts by the mind’s affection.
Nothing is equal in value to the sight of God.
Thou art the pure Cherisher;
Thou art the Lord great and Incomparable.
Give me Thy hand, O Brave One, Thou art the only one to assist me.
Creator, by Thy power, didst
Thou create the world; Thou art Nanak’s prop.”
(Tilang Mohalla 5, p-724)
The economic well-being of the country is closely linked with the monsoon. With a view to alleviating the sufferings of the peasents, Guru arjan helped the villagers in digging six-channel Persian wheel (Chhehrta) wells , which irrigated their fields. Chheharta is a living monument of his efforts in this direction.
This Sabad, when heard by the Viceroy of Lahore, produced a profound impression on his mind. He asked the Guru if he could render any service to him. Upon his consent, the viceroy got a Bawli excavated.
From there he went to the shrine of Guru Nanak at Dera Baba Nanak. After that he proceeded to Barath to visit Sri Chand, Guru Nanak’s son.
The Guru returned to Amritsar but Prithia still continued to create problems for him. Prithia’s wife was very much sore and complained,”The eldest son has been superseded. The youngest one obtained the Guruship and the whole world, both Emperor and the common man, worships him.” Prithia replied,”Arjan has no son and so his prosperity is short-lived. Our son Meharban will be the next Guru.” Guru’s wife heard this conversation and reported it to the Guru, and prayed that he should grant her a son. He bade her to pay no heed to the remarks of Prithia or his wife but should continue to repeat true Name. One day again she requested the Guru,”O King, they who seek thy protection, obtain happiness in this life and salvation in the next. My married life would be most happy if you grant me a son.”
The Guru always blessed his Sikhs and then most of the religious acts were performed through them. When his wife continued pressing for the gift of a son, he told her to go to his revered Sikh, Bhai Buddha and pray for the desired gift. Next day the Guru’s wife set out in great state to see Bhai Buddha. She took her attendants and the wives of the headmen of Amritsar and rode in carriages with great pomp and show. She carried plates of sweets as offering to the saint. When Bhai Buddha saw the procession he remarked,”What happened! Is there a stampede from Amritsar that the inhabitants have left the city and are coming here?” She placed plates of sweets before Bhai Buddha and prayed for his blessing. Bhai Buddha replied,”Respected lady, I am only a servant of your house. It is only the Guru who is an ocean of supernatural power, who fulfills every one’s desires. I am also not worthy of these savoury dishes. Were I to eat them, how could I, afterwards, think of cutting the grass?”
So she came back very much disappointed and related the whole story to the Guru, who then remarked,”The saints and the true Guru are not pleased with display of pomp. If you desire anything from them, appear before them not in a state of superiority but in a humble manner. If you still desire the saint’s blessing, then with devotion in thy heart, prepare bread with your hands, dress yourself like an ordinary person and go alone on foot.”
As instructed by the Guru, she proceeded all alone next day. On seeing her Bhai Buddha said,”Hail O lady! Give me what you have brought.” While eating he said,”The Guru is the owner of the storehouse, but I have received instructions to open it. As you have given me food of my heart’s content, so shall you have a son of thy heart’s content.” On her return she told the Guru about the graciousness of Bhai Buddha.
When Prithias learnt the news of Guru’s wife’s pregnancy, they got very upset and instigated Sulhi Khan against the Guru. To avoid conflict, the Guru moved to village Wadali, about six to seven miles away from Amritsar.
On 19th of June, 1595 (21st of the month of Har, Sambat 1652), Guru’s wife gave birth to a son named Har Gobind at Wadali. On the birth of his son, the Guru uttered the following Sabad:
“The True Guru sent me a son;
A long-lived son hath been born by destiny.
When he took his dwelling in the womb,
His mother’s heart was exceedingly glad.
The destiny recorded in the beginning hath become manifest to all.
By God’s order the boy hath been born in the tenth month.
(Asa Mohalla 5, p-396)
When Mata Ganga Ji (d. 1628 AD) sought the blessings of Guru Arjan to bear a child, Guru Ji advised her to invoke the blessings of Baba Buddha (1503-1631 AD), the most revered Sikh. Going to Baba Buddha, to pay her respects, she carried with her ‘missi roti’, an onion and glass of lassi. While breaking the onion the Baba pronounced, Soon you will be the mother of a child whose gallantry and valour will be unmatched, an he will break the heads of his enemies like I break this onion.
On hearing the birth of Har Gobind, Prithias were very much saddened. They immediately began to hatch conspiracies to put an end to the life of the infant Har Gobind. Several attempts were made to this effect. Prithia hired a nurse to poison the baby. She applied poison to nipples of her breast and went to Wadali. In the meantime the child was said to have stopped breast suckling due to some indisposition. The nurse first congratulated the Guru’s wife on the birth of the child. She then caressed and fondled the baby trying to breast feed him. The child refused suckling. At that time, for some mysterious reasons, nurse fainted and fell backwards. When she regained her consciousness, she repented and disclosed that Prithia had hired her to kill the infant. The story of Prithia’s ill scheme spread from house to house.
Prithia then hired a snake-charmer and induced him to kill the child by exposing him to a cobra. He promised the snake-charmer a great sum of money if he succeeded in the plot. The snake-charmer found a chance and let a black cobra loose in the court-yard. It is said that Har Gobind took the hissing cobra in his hand and killed it immediately.
Sikhs from distant places visited Amritsar during the absence of the Guru. Prithia made efforts to convince them that he was the real Guru but could not succeed in his mission. When Har Gobind was two years old, some prominent Sikhs came to Wadali and requested the Guru to return to Amritsar which he did. Har Gobind became ill with small-pox of very virulent type. The people suggested to the Guru to make offerings to the goddess of small-pox but he rejected their advice to worship the goddess for the recovery of his son’s illness. He, rather, stressed the worship of only one God who is the Creator and the sole Cherisher. The Guru uttered many Sabads in Rag Bilawal and Sorath on this subject. By the grace of God, Har Gobind recovered fully in a few days.
Prithia took another shot and induced Har Gobind’s male nurse to poison the child. Next day the servant slipped poison in the baby’s milk. The child, however, turned away from the poisoned milk and refused to drink it. The servant tried to fondle Har Gobind in feeding the contaminated milk but in vain. When the baby started crying, the Guru inquired of the cause of his weeping. The servant replied that he did not drink the milk and when he pressed him to drink, he began to cry. Then the Guru, himself tried to feed the baby who insisted on refusing to drink. Upon this the Guru took a sample of that milk and fed it to a dog which fell immediately sick and died. The servant realized his ill doings and confessed to the Guru and disclosed the murderous designs of Prithia.
Prithia became very furious and went to Delhi with Sulhi Khan to complain against the Guru to the Emperor. Before his departure to Delhi, Guru’s other brother, Mahadev and Bhai Gurdas tried to restrain Prithia but he would not listen. Sulhi Khan presented the complaint to the Emperor who decided not to interfere in the affairs of religious men and secondly he concluded that the charges were not true. Prithia was crushed by his disappointment.
When Har Gobind became of a suitable age to receive instructions, he was entrusted to Bhai Buddha for his education. Bhai Buddha gave him adequate lessons and also taught him the use of offensive and defensive weapons, riding, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, administration and other sciences. The Guru offered acknowledgement to Bhai Buddha for his successful and comprehensive instructions.
- Brief Introduction
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- Khalsa : Saint – Soldier
- Fundamentals of Sikhism
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- The Message of Sikhism
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- The Sikh Shrines
- The Sikh Symbols
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