Guru Arjan Dev

Guru Arjan Dev Ji: was born at Goindwal on April 15,1563, (Vaisakh Vadi 7th, 19th Vaisakh, Samvat 1620 according to Bikrami Calendar). He was the youngest son of Guru Ramdas and Mata Bhani Ji.

Baba Budha ji taught Gurmukhi script and Gurbani to child Arjan Dev. He was also given a suitable education in Persian, Hindi and Sanskrit languages. Arjan Dev was very intelligent and he mastered these languages very quickly. Arjan Dev developed a kean interest in Gurbani. As a child, Arjan Dev often talked of God and loved to sing His praises. Arjan Dev was sweet, humble and a perfect blend of devotion and sacrifice.

Arjan Dev spent 11 years of his early life under the benign grace and tender care of his maternal grandfather, Guru Amardas Ji at Goindwal. This helped the child Arjan dev in understanding and grasping the deep meanings of Gurbani. Here he developed great understanding and love for Gurbani. Guru Amardas Ji commented on young child Arjan by saying" ਦੋਹਿਤਾ ਬਾਣੀ ਕਾ ਬੋਹਿਥਾ" Granchild would "deal with Gurbani in abundance" Or literally meaning that he would be a carrier of Gurbani.

Arjan Dev had two elder brothers, Prithi Chand and Mahadev . Prithi Chand proved to be the most selfish and jealous of Arjan Dev, whereas, Mahadev preferred to remain in utter silence, most of the time.

Guru Ramdas ji founded the town of Ramdas Chak and later known as Ramdas Pur and Arjan Dev was assigned the project by Guru Ramdas ji of building Darbar Sahib and for completing two sacred tanks (pools/Sarowars) at Ramdas Chak, now known by the name of Sri Darbar Sahib and the Sarowar, the Guru completed the construction of Santhokhsar.

Prithi Chand, elder brother of the Guru was very keen to inherit Guruship. However Guruship is not something can be inherited. Guru Nanak Dev set the standard for installing the next Guru and Guru Ramdas followed the same standards in making the selection. After realizing that Prithi Chand and Mahadev are not qualified for Guruship and judging Arjan Dev as the most qualified person among his followers, Guru Ramdas according to the established tradion, on September 1, 1581, in the congrgation, installed Arjan Dev as the Fifth Guru, Also according to the established traditions, Guru Ramdas bowed before Arjan Dev, gave him all the Verses he himself wrote and also that of previous Gurus and the Saints and declared him as the future Guru of the Sikhs. Guru Arjan Dev became the 5th Guru at the early age of 18 years.

In an arranged marriage, Guru Arjan was married to Bibi Ganga, daughter of Krishan Chand, a resident of Meo village near Phillaur in Jalandhar district. The marriage took place in 1589 when he was about 26 years old.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji was very energetic and an aspiring personality. In order to strengthen Sikhism, he toured far and wide for about five years preaching Sikhism throughout India. He also stayed for sometime at Wadali. Now this place is called Guru-Di-Wadali and it is near the city of Amritsar . It was here at Wadali that Guru Arjan had a son (Guru) Hargobind Sahib in 1595.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji founded the town of Tarn Taran near Goindwal and also built a Gurdwara and a large tank (Pool) there. He also built a treatment centre for lepers and for their care.

There was a huge following of Sakhi Sarver in the area near Taran Taran. They used to worship graves and Sakhi Sarver, a muslim Pir. Bhai Manj, a well known person in the area was their leader. After he closely observed and understood the teachings of Guru Arjan Dev, Bhai Manj was very impressed and asked Guru ji to accept him as his Sikh. Guru Ji, responded that Sikhism does not believe in converting people from other faiths and that Bhai Manj can either be a follower of Sakhi Sarver or he can be a Sikh but cannot be both. Bhai Manj insisted and pleaded that he is convinced and would like to be a Sikh. Guru ji gave him some time to leasurly understand and practice Sikhism to judge by himself if he would really like to be a Sikh. Ultimately, Guru Ji accepted him as a Sikh.

He also laid the foundation stone of the town of Kartarpur in Doaba region (near Jalandhar city). He constructed a Baoli (a Well) in Dabbi-Bazar of Lahore, which was destroyed by Shah Jahan, who built a mosque there. But later on Maharaja Ranjit Singh re-excavated the Baoli. Again, after the partition of India in 1947, it was demolished by the Musilm mob.

Guru Ji established another town of Hargobindpur on the bank of river Bias. In addition, he got a big well dug up at Chheharta, which were six wells at one place, for irrigation purposes in the area, which was only a few miles away from Amritsar. This well helped the farmers tremendously in irrigation. Completion of all these works were big achievements for Guru Arjan Dev towards strengthening Sikhism and helping the general masses.

To further consolidate and extend Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev Ji did another monumental work. Guru Arjan Dev knew that some people are writing poetry and are using Guru Nanak’s name in their writings. This way, such writers were confusing the followers of Guru Nanak. He decided to compile and authenticate a scripture to include Hymns (Gurbani) written by all the Gurus that he had in his possession. In this Scripture, sacred hymns written by many saints belonging to Islam and Hinduism, some of whome belonged to the so-called high-caste hindu families while others belonged to the so-called low-caste families. There were fifteen such Saints whose writings matched in thought and philosophy to that of Guru Nanak. These writings were collected by Guru Nanak while touring across India. Also included were the hymns written by 11 Bards and by three Sikhs, who were close to the Institution of Sikhism, such as, Baba Sundar, Rai Balwand, Bhai Satta. This also included hymns written by Guru Nanak with reference to Bhai Mardana. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, compiled this Bani according to classical Raagas and gave a count of hymns by each writer for each Raaga. Guru Arjan Dev himself contributed about 2000 hymns for it. Bhai Gurdas, an elite, who understood Gubani really well, was the scribe for this Scripture. After the compilation of the scripture, it was named Aad (the first) Granth, which Guru Ji installed at Sri Darbaar Sahib in August/September 1604 ( Bhadon Sudi 1st Samvat 1661). He installed Baba Budha Ji as the first Granthi, the care taker of Aad Granth, also known as Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Aad Granth proved a great landmark in the history of the Sikh Nation. Its compilation established and authenticated the religious separation from the Hindus and the Muslims. From here on, Sikhism began to develop as a distinct religion with altogether different philosophy and approach to life. The Guru included the Hymn in Aad Granth clearly asserting as such:

ਵਰਤ ਨ ਰਹਉ ਨ ਮਹ ਰਮਦਾਨਾ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਸੇਵੀ ਜੋ ਰਖੈ ਨਿਦਾਨਾ ॥1॥ ਏਕੁ ਗੁਸਾਈ ਅਲਹੁ ਮੇਰਾ ॥ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਤੁਰਕ ਦੁਹਾਂ ਨੇਬੇਰਾ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥(ਪੰਨਾ 1136). I neither hold fasts nor I observe Ramdaana. I only serve the One Lord, who protects me. One Lord, who takes care of the whole world is my God Allah. He alone serves justice to both, Hindus and the Muslims.

Bhagat Kabir Ji has similar views:

ਹਮਰਾ ਝਗਰਾ ਰਹਾ ਨ ਕੋਊ ॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਛਾਡੇ ਦੋਊ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ॥ ਬੁਨਿ ਬੁਨਿ ਆਪ ਆਪੁ ਪਹਿਰਾਵਉ ॥ ਜਹ ਨਹੀ ਆਪੁ ਤਹਾ ਹੋਇ ਗਾਵਉ ॥2॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥3॥ (ਪੰਨਾ 1158 - 1159) I have no quarrel with anyone. I have abandoned both the Pandits, the Hindu religious scholars, and the Mullahs, the Muslim priests. || 1 || Pause || I weave and weave, and wear what I weave. I sing God’s Praises, Where egotism does not exist. || 2 || I reject, Whatever the Pandits and Mullahs have written; I do not accept any of it. || 3 ||

Some people who were not happy with the spread of Sikhism and the works of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, made a complaint with the Emperor Akbar claiming that the Guru has included some Hymns that denigrate Islam. Emperor Akbar was thus mislead by the enemies of Guru Arjan Dev Ji about the contents of Aad Granth. However, when the Emporer randomly checked the verses included in Aad Granth, he found nothing objectionable. The Emperor Akbar, infact was pleased with the contents and his assessment about Aad Granth Sahib was "The greatest Granth and worthy of reverence".

Guru Arjan Dev Ji encourged people with different skills for moving to Ramdas Pur, now known as Amritsar. Thus, during the period of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the city of Amritsar had many professional and business people settle there. In addition, the city became the central institution where all the Sikhs used to gather annually on the occasion of Vaisakhi. At this time, the Massands would deposit all offerings in Guru Sahib's treasury that they had collected from the followers of the Guru from different parts of India.

The Masand system was established and the tradition of collecting Daswandh, one tenth of the earnings of each follower was also institutionalized. This institution was engaged in spreading the message of Sikhism to the provinces far distant from the Punjab and attracted a large number of followers. However, until the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, the Masands had become corrupt and thus Massand system failed in achieving its established objectives. For this reason, Guru Gobind Singh abolished this system in 1698.

After Arjan Dev was installed as the Guru, the Sikhs began to call Guru Arjan Dev Ji as "Sacha Patshah". The number of followers of the Guru began to increase each day and this made the orthodox Hindus and princely Muslim class more jealous towards the establishment of the Sikhs (Sikh Nation). Guru's elder brother, Prithi Chand who bypassed from Guruship, made an alliance with Sulhi Khan (a revenue officer from Batala), and planned to harm and harass the Guru. But Sulhi Khan died by his sudden fall in a live brick-kilins. The orthodox Hindus and the fundamentalist Muslims (Shekh Ahmed Sirhandi, Birbal and Chandu) were some of the most jealous of Sikh community and therefore of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. After the death of Akbar in 1605, both, Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists managed to convince the new head of the state, emperor Jahangir against the Guru.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji followed and further propagated the principles and doctrines initiated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Following Guru Nanak, Guru Arjan Dev believed in righteousness and in the freedom of practicing the religion of ones choice.

Jahangir himself was also jealous about Guru's popularity and the propagation of Sikhism. He felt threatened by it. He promptly obliged the enemies of Guru Arjan Dev and many baseless allegations were leveled against the Guru. One such allegation was that the Guru had helped the rebellious Khusro, son of Jahangir. Guru Arjan Dev was arrested and brought to Lahore where he was given the choices of accepting Islam and handing over all the money he had to the new Emporer or accept punishment. As far the money was concerened, Guru responded that money belongs to the Sikhs and accepting Islam, Guru Ji said that he has his own faith and believes in righteousness and thus would not accept Islam. Guru Ji was thus charged and implicated in the false cases.

The Governor of Lahore was assigned the task of the execution of the Guru according to Yasa Law of the Mongoles, who handed over Guru Sahib to Chandu, a petty businessman and an orthodox Hindu of Lahore city. Guru Arjan Dev had turned down Chandu Shah’s offer of marriage between Chandu’s daughter and Hargobind, son of Guru Arjan Dev.This gave an opportunity for Chandu to seek revenge by exploiting his authority. He brought the Guru to his yard and tortured the Guru for three days in a manner unknown in the history of mankind. It is said that Mian Mir (a Muslim Sufi Saint and friend of Guru Arjan Dev) tried to intercede on behalf of the Guru but the later forbade him. During the torturing period, the Guru was made to sit on the hot iron plate while the hot burning sand was poured over his naked body. When his body was blistered, he was chained and thrown into the river Ravi.

To defend his rights, the Guru embraced martyrdom and died on May 30, 1606, (Bikrami Jeth Sudi 4th, 1st Harh, Samvat 1663).

Jahangir in his autobiography acknowledges that he personally ordered the execution of Guru Arjan Dev.

The martyrdom of the Guru changed the entire character of Sikhism radically. The Sikh Nation naturally looked upon this as the bigotry and cruelty of the theist Muslim state and the orthodox Hindus towards the newly born, peace loving Sikhism.

Brief Review

What do we learn about Guru Arjan Dev Ji from this brief narrative?

Who taught him Punjabi and other languages?

How many languages he learned?

How many years he stayed with his Maternal GrandFather?

What did he learn during these years?

Who were his brothers?

Who established the standards for installing the next Guru?

Could Guruship be inherited?

At what age Arjan Dev Ji became the Guru?

At what age was he married and to whom?

What was given by Guru Ramdas Ji to Arjan Dev Ji at the time of installing him the next Guru?

List the projects he completed to help people and to strenthen and in spreading Sikhism?

What was the name of his son and when and where was his son born?

Name the cities Guru Arjan Dev ji built?

Who was trying to harm and harass Guru Arjan Dev and for what reasons?

What was Guru Arjan Dev's biggest achievement in authenticating Sikhism.

Why Emporer Jahangir felt threatened by Guru Arjan Dev Ji?

How Guru Arjan Dev was charged and implicated?

What were the charges?

What principles Guru Arjan Dev Ji tried to uphold?

Under what law, Guru Arjan Dev Ji was punsihed and who served the punishment?

Did other Gurus introduce any new doctrines of Sikhism of their own, which were different or contradictory to that of Guru Nanak? Read more books to know about other Gurus before answering this question.

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