Sri Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji
Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰ ਦਾਸ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ) was the third of the ten Sikh Guru's and became Guru on Saturday, 16th April 1552 at the age of 73 following in the footsteps of Sri Guru Angad Sahib Ji, who became joti jot on 29th March 1552 aged 48. Guru Amar Das Ji was born in 1479, 10 years after Guru Nanak the first Sikh Guru and founder of the Sikh faith.
Guru Ji was the eldest son of Sri Tej Bhan Ji a farmer and trader and Mata Lachmi Ji, his devoted mother. He was a shopkeeper and lived in a village called Basarke which is near Amritsar.
Guru Amar Das was married to Mata Mansa Devi and they had four children - Two sons named Bhai Mohan and Bhai Mohri and two daughters named Bibi Dani Ji and younger daughter named Bibi Bhani Ji. Bibi Bhani later married Bhai Jetha who became the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das.
The following is a summary of the main highlights of Guru Ji's life:
• All visitors to Gurdwaras were to first take Langar (Free Blessed Food) together before seeing the Guru. "First Pangat then Sangat"
• Further abolished the Caste System.
• Guru lifted the status of women and gave them equality with men. He strictly prohibited the practice of Sati (the dying of the wife on her husband's funeral pyre), "Parrda" (veil to cover the face), etc.
• Established an Administration system for management of the increasing size of the Sikh congregations, called Manjis
• Gift of the prayer called Anand Sahib, which is one of the Five Banis recited daily by devout Sikhs.
• Established the city of Goindval on the banks of river Bias in 1552 A.D.
• The Guru contributed a total of 907 hymns to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Before Guru Ji died at the age of 95, he nominated Guru Ram Das (Bhai Jetha) as the fourth Guru of the Sikhs.
ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰ ਦਾਸ ਤਾਰਣ ਤਰਣ ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਪਾ ਸਰਣਿ ਤਅ ॥੨॥੧੬॥
Guru Amar Das is our Saving Grace, who carries us across; in lifetime after lifetime, I seek the Sanctuary of Your Feet. ||2||16||
It is recorded that before becoming a Sikh, Bhai Amar Das Ji as he was known at the time, was a very religious vaishanavite hindu who spent most of his life performing all of the ritual pilgrimages and fasts of a devout hindu.
One day, Bhai Amar Das Sahib Ji heard some hymns of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib being sung by Bibi Amro Ji, the daughter of Sri Guru Angad Sahib Ji Maharaj, the second Sikh Guru Sahib. Bibi Amro Ji was married to Bhai Sahib's nephew, Bhai Manak Chand Ji' s son who was called Bhai Jasso Ji.
Bhai Amar Das Ji fetching water for
Bibi Amro Ji lived together with Bhai Sahib's brother. It so happened that Bhai Sahib was at his brother's nearby house when he heard the wonderful recitation of Gurbani by his niece-in-law. Bhai Sahib was so impressed and moved by these Shabads that he immediately decided to go to see Sri Guru Angad Sahib Ji at Khadoor Sahib. It is recorded that this event took place when Bhai Sahib was 61 years old.
Bhai Sahib also had a younger brother called Bhai Ishar Das whose son Bhai Gurdas Ji, was a superb poet and scholar of comparative religions who would later become the scribe that was chosen by Guru Angad Sahib to pen the first edition of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj.
In 1635, upon meeting Guru Angad Sahib Ji, Bhai Sahib was so touched by the Guru's message that he became a devout Sikh. Soon he became involved in Sewa (Service) to the Guru and the Community. Under the impact of the Sri Guru Angad Sahib Ji and the teachings of the Gurus, Bhai Amar Das Ji became a devout Sikh. He adopted Guru Ji as his spiritual guide (Guru).
Bhai Sahib Ji began to live at Khadoor Sahib. He used to rise early in the morning, bring water from the Beas River for Guru Ji's bath, he would wash the Guru Ji's clothes and fetch wood from the Jungle for 'Guru ka Langar'. He was so dedicated to Sewa and the Guru and had completely extinguished pride and was totally lost in this commitment that he was considered an old man who had no interest in life, he was dubbed Amru, and generally forsaken.
However, as a result of Bhai Sahib's commitment to Sikhi principles, dedicated service and devotion to the Sikh cause, Sri Guru Angad Sahib Ji appointed Sri Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji as third Sri Guru Nanak Sahib in March 1552 at the age of 73. He established his headquarters at the newly built town of Goindwal Sahib, which Sri Guru Angad Sahib Ji had established.
Bhai Amar Das becomes the third Sikh Guru
Soon large numbers of Sikhs started flocking to Goindwal to see the new Guru. Meanwhile, going against his father's wishes, Datu one of Guru Angad's sons proclaimed himself as Guru at Khadoor following his father's rejoining with God. He was so jealous of Guru Amar Das that he, with a small group of his supporters, proceeded to Goindwal to confront the Guru. Upon seeing Guru Amar Das seated on a throne surrounded by his followers he said, "You were a mere menial servant of the house until yesterday; how dare you style yourself as the Guru?".
At that point, Datu kicked the aged Guru Amar Das Ji so hard that he fell to the floor. Taking the seat of the Guru he then proclaimed himself Guru to the assembly of Sikhs. The Sangat must have been shocked as this not only flew against Guru Angad's wishes, but against centuries of respect that the people of India and the Punjab had for their elders, to kick the revered Guru was indeed shocking.
Guru Amar Das, however, in utter humility, righted himself and caressed Datu's foot saying, "I am old and my bones have grown very hard, I fear they have hurt your tender foot. "After this Guru Amar Das left Goindwal that evening and returned to his native village of Basarke Gillan.
At Basarke Gillan, Guru Amar Das shut himself in a small house for solitary meditation. He had told no one where he was headed, but just in case someone tracked him down he attached a notice on the front door saying, "He who opens this door is no Sikh of mine, nor am I his Guru." A delegation of faithful Sikhs led by Baba Buddha found the house and seeing the notice on the front door, finally chose to 'go between the Guru's words', cutting a hole through a wall to reach their beloved Guru. Then Baba Buddha said to the Guru, "Guru Sahib, being supreme, we know you care for nothing in the world - neither fame, nor riches nor a following, but we cannot live without your guidance. Guru Angad has tied us to your apron, where should we go now if you do not show us the way?"
At the tearful emtreaty of the Sikhs, Guru Amar Das, overwhelmed by their devotion, returned to Goindwal where Datu, who had been unable to gather any followers of his own, had returned to Khadoor.
Bhai Amar Das searches for the True Guru.
Once the 84 steps were created, Guru Amar Das explained that those Sikhs who completed Japji Sahib on each step with firm faith would achieve liberation with God and not suffer the pains of birth and death in future.
Hari Ram belonged to Marwaha Khatri dynasty and was very proud of his high caste. So he was against the tradition of langar (common kitchen) established by Guru Amar Das where everyone was treated as equals.
Emperor Akbar had heard favourable accounts of Guru Amar Das. When it was time for the Emperor Akbar to make his periodical visit to from Delhi to Lahore he decided to visit the Guru.
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At Goindwal, Guru Amar Das propagated the Sikh faith in a logical and planned manner. He himself visited and sent Sikh missionaries to different parts of India to spread Sikhism. He divided the Sikh Sangat area into 22 branches called Manjis and appointed a local devout Sikh preacher at each place. The preacher sat on a Manji (a cot) while the congregation all sat around the Manji or cot. Here are the initial 16 names of the people he appointed to preach Sikhism.
In the area of Majha (Amritsar, Lahore, Sialkot)
Fresco of Guru Amar Das at Sri Goindwal Sahib
1. Manak Chand Jhinwar (Water Carrier) at Variowal in Amritsar.
2. Sada ram, a Blacksmith near Amritsar.
3. Hindal at Jandiala near Amritsar.
4. Gangu Shah banker at Lahore.
5. Mutho-Murari, a devoted couple, at Chunian in Lahore Dist.
In Jalandhar Doab
6. Paro Julka at Jalandar.
7. Mahesh Dhir at Sultanpur Lodi.
8. Rang Shah at Moluphota.
In Kangra Hills
9. Sawan mal, Nephew of Guru Amar Das, at Haripur Guler.
10. Name not given, at Dharamsala.
11. Phirya at Mirpur.
Malwa (Area of Patiala, Ludhiana, Bhatinda)
12. Kheira at Firozpur.
13. Mai Das Bairagi in charge of Ludhiana dist.
14. Mai Bhago at village Wayun, tehsil Kharar, dist. Rupar.
15. Mai Sewan at Village Gardnoh in Patiala District.
16. Sachna Shah in charge of Ambala distt.
17. Lalu in chage of some area in Sind.
18 to 22: Unknown
The Piri System was establish by Guru Amar Das to spread the teachings of Guru Nanak among the women of the Punjab and India. Even though Guru Nanak had called for equality among men and women, The women of India whether hindu, muslim or jaina were under the control of men. Women in their menses and even those giving birth were considered ritually unclean and were segregated out of sight.
Guru Amar Das preaching
In each of these religions women were often kept locked behind walls and allowed out only in Purda. Muslin women could/still can be divorced with only a few words or a wife who did not please her husband could die in a 'so called kitchen fire'. Women were blamed for the death of their husbands (their so called bad karma's doing) and as hindu's they were not allowed to marry again. As well they were expected to give up any use of color in their clothing or socialize outside of their co-mothers house where they were often treated as slaves. Guru Nanaki saw this along with the practice of 'Sutee' as an abombination.
In many Shia households women were not allowed even to answer a knock on their door if no male member of the family was present. Even now in the lands where the Sikh Gurus set foot, women of all ages die in so called Karo-kari cases, where a husband can accuse his wife or a brother his sister and kill her without any fear of punishment. Such charges are often used as justification to steal a wife's dowery or her property or simply to just get a younger more desirable or second wife. It was in fact the public flogging (2009) of a young woman in the beautiful Suwat Valley that started the recent (2009) ejection of the forces of the Taliban from what was once one of the most historic and beautiful parts of India. The taliban accused the woman of associating with an improper relative. The villagers said she had refused a forced marriage to one of the talibs.
Because of men's control of their wives and daughters a families' honor, then as now, depended on the virtu of their women folk (never being in contact with any males not a part of their immediate family). So to avoid any hint of impropriety Guru Amar Das introduced a system in which woman spiritual leaders would guide women about Sikh doctrines and traditions. Guru Amar Das called this system the Piri system. Piri like the word Manji is a very small wooden cot from which the Piris would guide their charges.
The Piris were ladies whose objective was to light the flame of the Guru's word and spread the fragrance of Nam among women. Bibi Bhani, Bibi Dani and Bibi Pal were some of the most revered leaders of the different Piris.
Guru Amar Das gave authority and power to 146 of his apostles to go to various parts of the country and unfold the glory of Naam. Out of these 146 persons, 94 were men and 52 were women. They were all glowing with True Name and filled with Divine Spirit.
Sending Bhai Gurdas to Agra
Guru Amar Das was impressed with Bhai Gurdas' thorough 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)
Visit of Akbar
Emperor Akbar visiting Guru Amar Das Ji
Guru Ji strengthened the tradition of 'Guru ka Langar' and made it compulsory for the visitor to the Guru saying that 'Pehle Pangat Phir Sangat' (first visit the Langar then go to the Guru).
Once the Emperor, Akbar came to see Guru Sahib. He too was served langar of coarse rice before he could see Guru Sahib. Akbar was so impressed with the langar that he expressed his desire to grant royal property for income to provide langar, but Guru Sahib declined it with respect.
So instead, Akbar donated the land to Guru Amar Das's daughter, Bibi Bhani. Later he waived off the toll-tax (pilgrim's tax) for non-Muslims while crossing Yamuna and Ganga, as a sign of religous tolerance.
Guru Amar Das Sahib maintained cordial relations with Emperor Akbar.
Guru Amar Das preached against Sati and advocated the re-marrying of widows. He asked the women to discard 'Purdah' (veil). He introduced new birth, marriage and death ceremonies. Thus he raised the status of women and protected the rights of female infant who were killed without question as they were deemed to have no status. These teachings met stiff resistance from the Orthodox hindus and Muslim fundamentalists. He fixed three Gurpurbs for Sikh celebrations: Diwali, Vaisakhi and Maghi. Visiting of hindu pilgrimage centres and paying tributes to the Muslim places were prohibited.
Baoli Sahib contructed by Guru Amar Das Ji
When the Raja of Haripur came to see the Guru. Guru Amar Das insisted that he first partake a common meal from the community kitchen, called langar, irrespective of his caste. The Raja obliged and had an audience with the Guru. But one of his queens refused to lift the veil from her face, so Guru Amar Das refused to meet her. Guru Amar Das not only preached the equality of people irrespective of their caste but he also tried to foster the idea of women's equality. He tried to liberate women from the practices of purdah (wearing a veil) as well as preaching strongly against the practice of sati (hindu wife burning on her husband's funeral pyre). Guru Amar Das also disapproved of a widow remaining unmarried for the rest of her life.
Guru Amar Das Sahib constructed Baoli at Goindwal Sahib having eighty-four steps and made it a Sikh pilgrimage centre for the first time in the history of Sikhism. He reproduced more copies of the hymns of Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Angad Sahib. He also composed 869 (according to some chronicles these were 709) verses (stanzas) including Anand Sahib, and then later on Guru Arjan (fifth Guru) made all the Shabads part of Guru Granth Sahib.
Once during several days of rain while Guru Amar Das was riding by a wall which he saw was on the verge of falling he galloped his horse past the wall. The Sikhs questioned him saying; "O Master, you have instructed us, 'fear not death, for it comes to all' and 'the Guru and the God-man are beyond the pale of birth and death', why did you then gallop past the collapsing wall?" Guru Amar Das replied; "Our body is the embodiment of God's light. It is through the human body that one can explore one's limitless spiritual possibilities. Demi-gods envy the human form. One should not, therefore, play with it recklessly. One must submit to the Will of God, when one's time is over, but not crave death, nor invite it without a sufficient and noble cause. It is self surrender for the good of man that one should seek, not physical annihilation."
Joti Jot (Merging with God) and Successor
When it came time for the Guru to marry his younger daughter Bibi Bhani, he selected a pious and diligent young follower of his called Jetha from Lahore. Jetha had come to visit the Guru with a party of pilgrims from Lahore and had become so enchanted by the Guru's teachings that he had decided to settle in Goindwal. He earned a living selling wheat and would regularly attend the services of Guru Amar Das in his spare time.
Guru Amar Das Sahib did not consider any one of his sons fit for Guruship and instead chose his son-in law (Guru) Ram Das to succeed him. Certainly it was practically a right step not as emotional, because Bibi Bhani and (Guru) Ram Das had true sprit of service and their keen understanding of the Sikh principles deserved this. This practice shows that Guruship could be transferred to any body fit for the Sikh cause and not to the particular person who belonged to the same family or of other. Guru Amar Das Sahib at the ripe age of 95 passed away for heaven on Bhadon Sudi 14th, (1st Assu) Samvat 1631, (September 1, 1574) at Goindwal Sahib near District Amritsar, after giving responsibility of Guruship to the Fourth Nanak, Guru Ram Das.