Sri Guru Ram
Das ji are known to be the Chauthi Patshahi or the Fourth Guru as well as
Guru who established the city of Amritsar. Sri Guru Ram Das ji kept alive
the tradition of first three Gurus. Sri Guru Ram Das ji were Guru for a short period.
After obtaining land
for the purpose, he founded the town of Ramdaspur (later Amritsar) which continues to be
the centre of Sikhism till today. He dug a tank which became the
principal place of pilgrimage. Traders and artisans were invited to
settle at the town so that its growth could be rapid. In due course it
became the largest commercial centre in northern India.
Phrase came to be associated with the tank dug at Amritsar which was
"Ramdas Sarovar Nahate, Sab uttre paap kamate", "I bath in the tank of Ram Das and all my sins were washed away" .
It was a
landmark in the life of the community, because the Guru established a
central place that was quite distinct from that of the Hindus and the
Muslims. Since then Amritsar is for the Sikhs what Mecca is for the
Muslims. All this indicates that the Guru had a distinct sense of his
mission and did everything to establish it as a separate religious
system and entity.
Guru Ram Das was born on September 24, 1534
to simple God-fearing parents, Hari Das and Anup Devi of Lahore. Known as Jetha
meaning the first born, he was a handsome young man. When he grew up he could
always be found in the company of religious men. One day Jetha came across a
party of Sikhs who were on their way to Goindwal to pay homage to Guru Amar Das.
Jetha decided to join them and also travel to Goindwal. Upon their arrival and
meeting, Guru Amar Das at once noticed the young Jetha with his pleasant manner
and sense of devotion. While his fellow travelers returned to Lahore, Jetha
decided to stay and become a disciple of Guru Amar Das. His hard work, and
devotion eventually won him the hand of Guru Amar Das's younger daughter, Bibi
Bhani. They went on to have three sons, Prithi Chand, Mahadev and Arjan Dev.
Jetha became a trusted disciple of Guru Amar Das.
As described previously he successfully represented Guru Ram Das before the
Mughal royal court to defend the charges by jealous Hindus that Sikhism maligned
both the Hindu and Muslim religions. "Birth and caste are of no avail before
God. It is deeds which make or unmake a man. To exploit ignorant people with
superstitions and to call it religion is a sacrilege against God and man. To
worship the infinite, formless and absolute God in the form of a totem, an image
or an insignificant or time-bound object of nature, or to wash one's sins not
through compassion and self-surrender, but through ablutions; to insist upon
special diets, languages and dresses, and fads about what to eat and what not,
and to condemn the mass of human beings, including women, to the status of
sub-humans and to deny them the reading of the scriptures and even work of every
kind is to tear apart man from man. This is not religion, not is it religion to
deny the world through which alone man can find his spiritual possibilities."
The Emperor Akbar was greatly impressed by the tenants of Sikhism as explained
by Jetha and dismissed all of the charges.
Eventually Jetha was ordained as Guru Amar Das's
successor and named Guru Ram Das (meaning servant of God). These events have
previously been described.
When the aged ascetic son of Guru Nanak Baba Sri
Chand came to visit Guru Ram Das he asked him why he kept such a long beard?
Guru Ram Das replied; "To wipe the dust off the feet of holy men like yourself"
and then proceeded to perform this supreme act of humility. Sri Chand held his
hand and embraced Guru Ram Das saying; "It's enough. This is the kind of
character by which you have deprived me of my ancestral heritage. Now, what more
is left with me that I could offer you for your piety and goodness of heart?"
Guru Ram Das now eagerly continued the building of
the city of Ramdaspur (the abode of Ram Das) by digging of the second sacred
pool as he had been instructed by Guru Amar Das. Pilgrims came in large numbers
to hear the Guru and to help in the excavation work of the tank. The holy tank
would be called Amritsar meaning pool of nectar. Today the city which is the
holiest center of Sikhism has come to be know as Amritsar. Guru Ram Das urged
his Sikhs that one could fulfill one's life not merely by quiet meditation but
in actively participating in the joys and sorrows of others. This is how one
could also rid oneself of the prime malady - Ego, and end their spiritual
One of the new entries into the Sikh fold at this
time was Bhai Gurdas Bhalla, the son of the younger brother of Guru Amar Das.
Bhai Gurdas was a superb poet and scholar of comparative religion who would
later go on become the scribe of the first edition of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Amar Das was impressed with Bhai Gurdas's existing knowledge of Hindi and
Sanskrit and the Hindu scriptures. Following the tradition of sending out
Masands across the country Guru Amar Das deputed Bhai Gurdas to Agra to spread
the gospel of Sikhism. Before leaving Guru Amar Das prescribed the following
routine for Sikhs;
"He who calls himself a Sikh of the True Guru, He
must get up in the morning and say his prayers. He must rise in the early hours
and bathe in the holy tank. He must meditate on God as advised by the Guru. And
rid himself of the afflictions of sins and evil. As the day dawns, he should
recite scriptures, and repeat God's name in every activity. He to whom the Guru
takes kindly is shown the path. Nanak! I seek the dust of the feet of the Guru's
Sikh who himself remembers God and makes others remember Him." (Gauri)
The standard Sikh marriage ceremony known as the
Anand Karaj is centered around the Lawan, a four stanza hymn composed by Guru
Ram Das. The marriage couple circumscribe the Guru Granth Sahib as each stanza
is read. The first round is the Divine consent for commencing the householders
life through marriage. The second round states that the union of the couple has
been brought about by God. In the third round the couple is described as the
most fortunate as they have sung the praises of the Lord in the company of
saints. In the fourth round the feeling of the couple that they have obtained
their hearts desire and are being congratulated is described.
Guru Ram Das's first cousin Sahari Mal came to
invite the Guru to visit Lahore in connection with the marriage of his son. The
Guru being much too busy with his work promised to send one of his sons instead.
Guru Ram Das asked his eldest son Prithi Chand to attend on his behalf, but he
refused. Prithi Chand feared that his father was perhaps trying to eliminate him
in order to install his youngest brother Arjan as the next Guru. Arjan was a
great favorite of his father. Mahadev the Guru's middle son was a recluse and
excused himself on the ground that he was not interested in the affairs of the
world. The Guru therefore asked his youngest son Arjan Dev to attend, which he
agreed to do with such grace and humility, that Guru Ram Das was very pleased.
Arjan Dev now proceeded to Lahore, where his father
asked him to remain until called for and to take charge of the needs and
education of the Sikhs in Lahore, his ancestral home. After two years of feeling
intensely homesick, Arjan Dev composed a poem of love and devotion and sent it
to Guru Ram Das. This poem along with another one a few month's later were
intercepted by the Guru's jealous son Prithi Chand who made sure his father
never received them. Finally Arjan wrote a third poem and numbered it with a 3
and gave strict instructions to the messenger to only hand it over to the Guru
"A moment's separation and it was like an age. When
do I see you now, my beloved Lord? My night does not pass, nor do I get sleep,
Without seeing the Guru's darbar. I am a sacrifice, I am a sacrifice again to
the true darbar of the Guru. 3" (Majh)
Upon finally receiving this poem, Guru Ram Das
sensed what must have happened to the earlier two messages so he confronted his
eldest son Prithi Chand. At first, Prithi Chand denied everything, but seeing
the insistence of the Guru and the consequences of refusal to obey him, he
finally confessed his treachery and produced the other two letters. When Guru
Ram Das read them, he was moved to tears by the humility and sincerity of his
son Arjan's compositions.
Guru Ram Das immediately sent for Baba Buddha to
journey to Lahore and to bring back his son Arjan Dev with full honour. The Guru
then had Bhai Budhha apply the saffron mark to the forehead of Arjan Dev and
declared him his successor. Prithi Chand would not accept his fathers wishes and
continued to misbehave and abuse Guru Arjan Dev. Guru Ram Das had to publicly
condemn his son Prithi Chand for his actions. Shortly thereafter Guru Ram Das
breathed his last on September 1 1581