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Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji

Guru Arjan was born in Goindwal, a small town in Amritsar district, in 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; ‘Dohita Bani Ka Bohita’-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 Krishan Chand. 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. 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 Harimandir which is now called Golden Temple, in the center of the tank.

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 Harimandir. 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, re-laid its foundation and reconstructed it. Hindu temples were closed on three sides and their entrances were generally towards east while Muslim mosques had entrances towards the west. Harimandir, the holy temple had entrance on all four sides. This denotes that God was in all the directions and secondly four doors in the four directions meant that the four castes would have equal access to the temple. The Adi Granth, Sikh holy Scripture, was placed in the center of the temple. City of Ramdaspur was, in course of time, called Amritsar. Because of Guru’s residence and the central place of worship, Amritsar became the center of the Sikh activities.

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 purpose of this organization was to spread the Sikh faith 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. Regular accounts of these offerings were kept and receipts were issued.

Guru Arjan Dev built another great temple some twelve miles away from Amritsar and called it Taran Taaran. The soil and climate of this place also are so blessed that it has a healing effect on bodily sufferers. Taran Taaran is a name which means the temple ‘Where people swim across the Sea of Ignorance to save many drowning soul.” Guru Arjan Dev was a loving husband and an affectionate father. Mata Ganga once in his presence expressed a wish that her son should hasten to her from heaven, he having already been so long a time upon the way. Arjan Dev said to her, “O dear one ! your son would come, but he is waiting for the call to go forth from Bhai Buddha. It is he who will call your child from Heaven to you, at some auspicious moment when he is in a happy mood.” She was to go and ask Bhai Buddha to pray for the birth of a son to her. Accordingly, she took offerings and went, attended by a number of female disciples, seated in a bullock cart. As the party approached the abode of Bhai Buddha, the ringing of bells, the creaking of cart wheels and the unusual bustle, caused a flutter in Bhai Buddha’s cloister. His cows took flight, breaking their ropes. Bhai Buddha inquired somewhat angrily, who was flying in such haste thither? The old seer was still ruffled when the aspirant to motherhood placed her offerings before him. He said, “O mother ! I am only a grass cutter of the Master’s house. I am a slave of his slaves. How can there be anything so compelling in my word?” She returned home and related to Arjan Dev what had happened. “It must be so, O good lady ! one day,” said Guru Arjan Dev. “The saint has foreseen our flight from Amritsar, and it must come to pass. O Good lady ! you ought not to have gone to see God’s holy man in that way. Do as I tell you. Prepare a simple meal with your own hands, singing the song of Nanak. First mill the flour in your hand-mill, knead it with honeyed milk of Nam, and then take this sacred song-bread to the disciple. Take no dainty dishes with this bread; just a little salt and a few onions in the fashion of the Punjab farmers. This will be the homely meal he loves.”

She did so. Bhai Buddha, who had received the Divine Gift of Nam from Nanak, was now an old man, with a silver-white flowing beard and all-white locks; but under these snows, his face was still aglow with the Divine, and his deep transparent eyes were brilliant with the fire of Heaven. When the woman appeared with that simple repast for him, the old man began lisping like a child whose feelings are fresh from Heaven, as he began to eat. “O Mother ! he said, “thy son will be the Master of Masters. He will be the King of his people. He will break the power of the Mughals as I break these onions under my fist. He will be the temporal king of his people. The people will gather round his throne. He will wear two swords, the sword of Heaven to save his disciples from the arms of death, and the sword of Earth to save his people from the Mughal oppression. Mother ! thy son will appear as the sun comes on the dark worlds.”

When Pritia learnt the news of Guru’s wife’s pregnancy, he got very upset and instigated Sulhi Khan against the Guru. To avoid conflict, Guru Ji moved to village Wadali, about six to seven miles away from Amritsar. On 19th of June, 1595, Guru’s wife gave birth to a son named Har Gobind at Wadali. Guru Arjan Dev was very fond of the child that came thus from Heaven at the blessing of Bhai Buddha. The baby came by a prayer, and Guru Arjan prayed when he was born. Har Gobind fell ill. The Guru had an anxious time; and, as the child recovered, he melted in a song of thankfulness. We read this song in Guru Granth : “Thank God, Har Gobind is well again !” The enemies of the Guru’s house tried to poison the child; but their plan was frustrated, and the child was saved by a fortunate incident.

Guru Arjan Dev was that interested people were passing compositions of their own as those of the Masters. He had already decided to give an authentic history of the mind of the Master in his song. But the manuscripts of the first three Gurus were in the possession of Mohanji, the son of Guru Amar Das, who had cut himself off from all society and would see nobody. Bhai Gur Das tried to get the manuscripts from him but without success; Bhai Buddha also was unable to get access to him. As without these manuscripts the task was hopeless, Guru Arjan Dev himself travelled to Goindwal, to endeavour to persuade the recluse. On arriving, he dipped himself in the sacred waters of the river where the great Gurus, Amar Das and Ram Das, had bathed many times before him. Guru Arjan Dev proceeded barefoot, ‘tambura’ in hand, to where Mohan dwelt in self-absorption (‘Mohan’ means ‘the inspiring God’). The true king of the people sat in the dust of the street in front of Mohan’s dwelling and sang some hymns to the accompaniment of the ‘tambura’.

This song roused Mohan from his sleep; he opened his window, looked down, said a few bitter words and disappeared again. The Guru sang another hymn. Mohan was appeased and came down to receive the Guru. Mohanji delivered the manuscripts to the Guru. The Guru raised the manuscripts to his forehead in deep reference; then, feeling happy with them in his lap, he again lifted up his voice in song. For the compilation of Adi Granth, he chose a secluded spot outside the city which is now called Ramsar. He got a tank excavated there. Tents were erected for the accommodation. Guru Arjan took abode neat the tank and dictated hymns to Bhai Gurdas who wrote them down. The verses arranged according to Rags or musical measures. After the Bani of Gurus, came the verses of the Bhagats or the Indian saints. The hymns of the Adi Granth were thus set according to thirty-one Indian Classical Ragas. When the composition was completed, the Guru then wrote Mandawni as a conclusion and affixed his seal thereto.

On 1604 A.D., Adi Granth was installed in the Harimandir and Bhai Buddha Ji was appointed as the first Granthi (priest). Prithi Chand never could forget what he regarded as the injury on him by his father’s withholding from him the throne of Nanak. He was always on the look out to injure Guru Arjan Dev; and he often succeeded in inflaming the Muslim priests of the neighborhood to raise a clam out against the composition of Adi Granth. He organized a deputation of the Kazis to represent to the Emperor Akbar that the book was full of blasphemies against both the Hindu religion and the Muslims. Of course, the Emperor, who knew Guru Arjan Dev very well, dismissed the suit of the Kazis. But this family-jealousy continued smoldering in the breast of Prithi Chand and his family.

The Emperor Akbar died a few months after his last visit to the Guru, and Jahangir became Emperor of India. This was a period of political tumult. Prince Khusro, who had been many times to see the Guru with his father, came flying for his life from Jahangir and his ministers, to ask the Guru for pecuniary help which might enable him to return to Kabul. Guru Arjan Dev received the prince very kindly, and, moved by his pitiable condition, gave him five thousand rupees, which would take him safely to Kabul. This private act of kindness was interpreted by the Guru’s enemies, headed by Prithi Chand, as a serious political crime against the them Emperor of India. They informed Chandu, the Hindu Minister of Jahangir, an old enemy of Guru Ji, who had obeyed the mandate of the people in preference to complying with a request from Chandu that his daughter be accepted as the bride of Har Gobind. It happened thus : Chandu, as it was customary, employed his Brahman priest to find a suitable match for his daughter. The priest came and offered to betroth her to Har Gobind; but the disciples gathered and said that the Guru must not consent to this alliance, as Chandu was a traitor. The Guru saw that his refusal would increase the fire of racial jealousy against his person; but he firmly obeyed the voice of the people, and declined the offer. Chandu, though deeply offended, tried in various ways to make up the difference; but the Guru would not be moved out of his resolve.

Chandu, therefore, stirred up the jealousy of the Court against the Guru. The latest weapon to his hand was supplied by Prithi Chand and his associates. A friend’s act in helping another friend was exaggerated into serious sedition and rebellion against Jahangir; as if the Guru, with the help fo Khusro, intended to overthrow Jahangir. At lat the machinations of Chandu succeeded in inflaming the Emperor; Guru Arjan Dev was summoned, and appeared before Jahangir at Lahore. Before leaving Amritsar, he had installed his son Har Gobind as his successor, and he took leave of his devoted wife, as if for ever. When the Guru came into the presence of Jahangir, it was evident from his mere appearance that he was no sedition-monger and contemplated no harm. Jahangir, therefore, received him with great consideration. The interviews continued for some days; and Chandu was ceaselessly active, so that at last the Emperor was forced to ask the Master why he helped Khusro against him? He replied, “Khusro was in distress; he appealed for help and the Guru helped him. It was a man helping a brother-man in trouble, and not an aid to rebellion against you, the king. Khusro was flying to Kabul and he has gone there.” The Emperor ordered a fine of two lacks to be paid by Guru Arjan, but the Guru firmly said, “The money I have is not mine. It is collected by the people, for the service of the people, and I have no private money out of which to pay you this fine. But even I had, I would not pay any fine, seeing I have done no wrong.” It is stated that the composition of Adi Granth formed the subject of a second charge framed against him. Jahangir, therefore, asked the Guru to alter the hymns so as to bring them into line with orthodox opinion. The Master replied, “I acknowledge no earthly king in this matter. The true King has inspired these hymns, and they are informed with the Spirit of God. I cannot alter the sacred word. It is destined to stand by itself, and needs no support of any other scriptures. The sacred book contains nothing but the song-chants of the Glory of the Highest; at Whose high door wait a million prophets, from Whom all cometh out, and to Whom all return.” Jahangir, it seems, handed over the person of the Guru to Chandu, on the latter’s promise to recover the fine without unnecessary molestation. But this promise Chandu never meant to keep.

Guru Arjan Dev was kept prisoner in Chandu’s own house; where, in strictest secrecy, he was made to suffer unthinkable tortures from day to day. Burning sands were poured on his bare body, he was compelled to sit on hot iron sheets. And, as he would take nothing from Chandu’s house and his Sikhs were never allowed to come near him, the Master was starved. In the daily routine of torture, Chandu allowed short intervals when he went and asked the Guru to accept the alliance with his family that had been proposed, and thus to release him from prison. He made no reply. The Sikhs were eager to pay the ransom and to rescue him, but he had forbidden payment of unjust fines. Mian Mir heard the tale of sorrow, and came to see him when it was late. Mian was indignant on seeing the condition of the Master, and wished to move the Emperor for his release. But the Master calmed his mind and asked him to look up. As Mian Mir looked up, he saw the whole Heaven gathered around his head and the Angels forming a canopy over him with their wings. In strong contrast with his anxious disciples, the Guru was calm, undisturbed, full of ineffable peace. Mian Mir bowed down, and left in silence. Guru Ji had accepted tortures for his people, who must be made strong to stand for justice, to suffer and to die for truth they love. Mian Mir saw the great idea and kept quiet. At last the Guru went to have his bath in the river Ravi. He was led out in prisoner’s clothes to the river, whose waters in those days washed the walls of the Lahore Fort. The Sikhs saw the Master; who looked at them, still forbidding all action. “Such is the will of my God; accept it,” said he; “Move not; stand calm in your injury.” The Master never returned to the prison, the body was given to the river Ravi. He left the earth, singing Japji, as crowds of his disciples stood calm but deeply afflicted, looking on. This was happened in 1606.