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Chandu Shah's Pride

Chandu Shah was the Emperor's Diwan or Financial Minister. He was a native of the Punjab, but his official duties necessitated his residence in Lahore and Delhi at times. He possessed various accomplishments, ambition, power in land and above all, the big ego of a spoiled rich man. Chandu was born an upper-caste hindu but converted to Islam in order to gain wealth.

He had a young daughter aged seven named 'Sada', to whom God had given extreme beauty without the good fortune which so often accompanies inferior natural gifts. One day her mother, as she saw her playing, said to Chandu, "Our daughter is growing to maturity. We ought to search for a husband for her. The Turks now hold sway. They practise oppression and dark deeds, among which is the forcible abduction of hindu girls. It has therefore become a practice of the hindus to marry their daughters when very young, so it is our duty to provide for Sada, and form an alliance with some respectable family."

Search For A Husband

Chandu was of the same opinion, and sending for his family priest and his barber he ordered them to go and search for a suitable husband for his daughter. The detailed instructions usual in such cases were duly given. The priest and the barber searched in every city as far as Peshawar, but they could find no suitable mate for Sada (it was customary in India to send the family priest and family barber on such errands). They then returned and duly informed their employer of their ill-success. The matter remained suspended for a time.

Historically, one of the main objects of an asain woman's anxiety is to procure the marriage of her children. She thinks and dreams of her supposed duty in this respect almost from the time of their birth. Chandu's wife addressed him again, "We cannot keep our daughter in our house any longer. You are occupied with affairs of state. I can't go anywhere, I sit at home and think of our daughter's future. The more I see her, the more I sink into despair."

No-One Is Good Enough

Chandu explained that he had already done his best but failed, "Where there was a boy of suitable age, his family was not good enough; and where the family was good enough the boy was not of a suitable age." He admitted that his daughter was a thorn in his side. She was too old to be put to death. In former times hindus of high family frequently killed their daughters to avoid the necessity of giving them in marriage to men of inferior birth.

The Sikh Gurus resolutely set themselves against the practice. One of the obligations imposed on Sikhs is not to kill their daughters, and to avoid all association with those who do. At the same time Chandu could find no family equal to his own. His wife replied, "Do not kill not our daughter. No such dark deed could be concealed. We must be humble, for it is usual for the father of the bride to bow before the father of the bridegroom."

So once again, Chandu sent his family priest and his barber with instructions as before. They travelled as far as Lahore from Delhi, but could not find a suitable bridegroom. There they heard the good report of Guru Arjan's son, the future Guru Hargobind, in Amritsar, and went there. On arriving they were astonished at the regal state and retinue of the Guru of whom the bard Mathura had sung;

ਜਗ ਅਉਰੁ ਨ ਯਾਹਿ ਮਹਾ ਤਮ ਮੈ ਅਵਤਾਰੁ ਉਜਾਗਰੁ ਆਨਿ ਕੀਅਉ ॥
Jag a▫or na yāhi mahā ṯam mai avṯār ujāgar ān kī▫a▫o.
In this world there is no such great saint as he; he assumed birth to lighten the darkness of the age.

ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਦੁਖ ਕੋਟਿਕ ਦੂਰਿ ਗਏ ਮਥੁਰਾ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਪੀਅਉ ॥
Ŧin ke ḏukẖ kotik ḏūr ga▫e mathurā jinĥ amriṯ nām pī▫a▫o.
Millions of troubles have departed from those, O Mathura, who through him drink nectar of the name.

ਇਹ ਪਧਤਿ ਤੇ ਮਤ ਚੂਕਹਿ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਭੇਦੁ ਬਿਭੇਦੁ ਨ ਜਾਨ ਬੀਅਉ ॥
Ih paḏẖaṯ ṯe maṯ cẖūkėh re man bẖeḏ bibẖed na jān bī▫a▫o.
O mortal being, do not leave this path; do not think of any other.

ਪਰਤਛਿ ਰਿਦੈ ਗੁਰ ਅਰਜੁਨ ਕੈ ਹਰਿ ਪੂਰਨ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਿ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ਲੀਅਉ ॥੫॥
Parṯacẖẖ riḏai Gur Arjan kai har pūran barahm nivās lī▫a▫o. ||5||
The Perfect Lord God has manifested itself; God dwells in the heart of Guru Arjan. ||5||

ਜਬ ਲਉ ਨਹੀ ਭਾਗ ਲਿਲਾਰ ਉਦੈ ਤਬ ਲਉ ਭ੍ਰਮਤੇ ਫਿਰਤੇ ਬਹੁ ਧਾਯਉ ॥
Jab la▫o nahī bẖāg lilār uḏai ṯab la▫o bẖaramṯe firṯe baho ḏẖā▫ya▫o.
Until good fortune appeared on one's forehead, I wandered around lost, running in all directions.

ਕਲਿ ਘੋਰ ਸਮੁਦ੍ਰ ਮੈ ਬੂਡਤ ਥੇ ਕਬਹੂ ਮਿਟਿ ਹੈ ਨਹੀ ਰੇ ਪਛੁਤਾਯਉ ॥
Kal gẖor samuḏar mai būdaṯ the kabhū mit hai nahī re pacẖẖoṯā▫ya▫o.
I was drowning in the horrible world-ocean of this dark age of kalyug, and my remorse would never have ended.

ਤਤੁ ਬਿਚਾਰੁ ਯਹੈ ਮਥੁਰਾ ਜਗ ਤਾਰਨ ਕਉ ਅਵਤਾਰੁ ਬਨਾਯਉ ॥
Ŧaṯ bicẖār yahai mathurā jag ṯāran ka▫o avṯār banā▫ya▫o.
O Mathura, consider this essential truth, that Guru Arjan assumed birth to save the world.

ਜਪ੍ਯ੍ਯਉ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਅਰਜੁਨ ਦੇਵ ਗੁਰੂ ਫਿਰਿ ਸੰਕਟ ਜੋਨਿ ਗਰਭ ਨ ਆਯਉ ॥੬॥
Jap▫ya▫o jinĥ Arjan ḏev gurū fir sankat jon garabẖ na ā▫ya▫o. ||6||
Whoever meditates on Guru Arjan, shall not have to suffer the pain of birth again. ||6||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Bhatt Mathura, Ang 1409

The matchmakers' admiration of (Guru) Hargobind and of the respect in which he and his father were held, exceeded all bounds. They thought of proposing the marriage to Guru Arjan themselves, but on second thoughts decided on first consulting Chandu.

The priest and the barber reported to Chandu that they had seen the Guru's son in the new city of Amritsar, and thought that he would be a suitable husband for Sada. They told Chandu the excellences of (Guru) Hargobind, whose lineage they gave, on the enormous respect in which his father was held, and on the splendour they had witnessed in the Guru's city.

The Arrogance

Chandu was not pleased on hearing the Guru's praises, he said, "Do you think him equal to me? What if he has many followers? He lives on offerings (which was incorrect), which is an ignominious form of livelihood. If the offerings come, the cup is held straight; if they do not it is reversed. He sits and watches, and even if wealth comes, his kitchen will be supplied with difficulty. He has no store of money, such wealth is like a mountain stream."

Chandu continued, "Whatever he appears to possess, he is in reality only a beggar, while I am the emperor's minister by whom millions of money are collected and millions of law-suits decided. What power does he have? while on the contrary none can reverse my order. Moreover the Guru's caste is inferior to mine. Brahman, I have tested your wisdom and knowledge in this matter. You want to put the ornamental tile of a top story into a gutter? Where am I, Imperial Financial Minister? and where is the Guru, though he may be an object of veneration to his followers? I think he must have stuffed you both with sweets that you come to me and propose an alliance with his family."

The Pride

Chandu's wife who had been listening said, "My lord, we have been searching for a husband for our daughter for the last two years, and no family has yet pleased you. Of the boys you have seen none have remained unwedded. At last we must wed our daughter somewhere. She cannot always remain with us. Wherever she is married, it must be into a family beneath ours. You are the greatest minister in this empire. As everybody bows before you, so does everybody bow before the Guru. Lets agree, if our daughter enter the Guru's house she shall be called the revered wife of the Guru; and obtain the happiness which God destined her."

Chandu still urged his objections, "The Guru does not conform with the customs of the khatris. He does not shave, he mixes with castes other than brahmans and khatris and he has adopted a new form of religion." After the husband and wife had wrangled the whole night over the matter, it was at last decided that Sada should be given in marriage to (Guru) Hargobind, and the marriage presents duly dispatched to Amritsar.

The Insult

It came to the ears of the Sikhs that Chandu had used injurious expressions regarding the Guru. They also knew that he did not really desire the alliance, but only consented in order to save himself from his wife's importunity (begging). The Sikhs met to consult over the matter, and it was decided to inform the Guru of Chandu's utterances. Accordingly the following letter was dispatched;

"True Guru, great king, Chandu is very proud. He has described his house as a tower and the Guru's to a gutter. He has called himself the head and you the feet. He styles himself a great minister and you a mendicant (beggar). When he speaks such insolent language beforehand, what will he do afterwards? His words not only slander you, but Guru Nanak, on whose throne you sit. Even if he is a rich man or a diwan, would you care?"

The letter continued, "In the Guru's house rich and poor are alike. The Sikhs cannot endure his insulting expressions. As Guru Amar Das said, "Nanak, it is wise to break with the unreasonable to whom worldly love is dear." If you consent to an alliance with such an arrogant man, you will create unneccessary troubles for yourself. You need nothing. You are the king of kings. Our urgent request is that you pay no regard to the Financial Minister, and that you reject his alliance."

The Proposal

The messenger entrusted with this letter was ordered to speed through night and day so that he might arrive before Chandu's priest and barber had concluded the contract of betrothal (engagement). He succeeded in doing so. The messenger said the daughter of such rich household was not fit for the house of a saint like Guru Arjan.

The Guru, who was a searcher of hearts and knew the future, was aware that this letter sowed the seed of strife and had been dispatched to him with inconsiderate zeal; but at the same time he felt obliged to accept the advice of his Sikhs. He accordingly rejected the marriage presents, telling the priest and the barber that an ornamental tile should not be put into a gutter.

The matchmakers, astonished to hear these words repeated, they defended their master and remonstrated to the best of their ability, but in vain. The Guru repeated to what his Sikhs had written and said, "I am happy with what I have and do not desire an alliance with the great. If one's foot slips on the edge of a tall tower, they falls a great distance; but if a one slip's on a mat there is little harm. Guru Nanak has said;

ਨੀਚਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਨੀਚ ਜਾਤਿ ਨੀਚੀ ਹੂ ਅਤਿ ਨੀਚੁ ॥
Nīcẖā anḏar nīcẖ jāṯ nīcẖī hū aṯ nīcẖ.
Those who are lowest of the low class, the very lowest of the low;

ਨਾਨਕੁ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਸਾਥਿ ਵਡਿਆ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਰੀਸ ॥
Nānak ṯin kai sang sāth vadi▫ā si▫o ki▫ā rīs.
Nanak seeks the company of those. Why should he try to compete with the great?

ਜਿਥੈ ਨੀਚ ਸਮਾਲੀਅਨਿ ਤਿਥੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਖਸੀਸ ॥੪॥੩॥
Jithai nīcẖ samālī▫an ṯithai naḏar ṯerī bakẖsīs. ||4||3||
In that place where the lowly are cared for-there, the blessings of God's rain down. ||4||3||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 15

Guru Arjan also quoted from one of his own hymns;

ਊਚਾ ਚੜੈ ਸੁ ਪਵੈ ਪਇਆਲਾ ॥
Ūcẖā cẖaṛai so pavai pa▫i▫ālā.
One who climbs high, shall fall into the nether regions of the underworld.

ਧਰਨਿ ਪੜੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਲਗੈ ਨ ਕਾਲਾ ॥੩॥
Ḏẖaran paṛai ṯis lagai na kālā. ||3||
One who remains grounded, shall not be touched by death. ||3||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Arjan, Ang 374

While the priest and the barber were further remonstrating, a Sikh rose in the assembly and addressed the Guru, "Great king, do not put not acid into milk. Spurn an alliance with that dog of a karar (also known as a bania, means a petty hindu shopkeeper). Let him knock his head against his top story. He consumes of wealth of the impure and then abuses you, the man is mad. You are the king of kings, why would you need this alliance?"

The Guru rebuked the Sikh for this language and quoted from the twentieth slok of the Asa Ki War;

ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥
Salok mėhlā 1.
Shalok, First Mehl:

ਨਾਨਕ ਫਿਕੈ ਬੋਲਿਐ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਫਿਕਾ ਹੋਇ ॥
Nānak fikai boli▫ai ṯan man fikā ho▫e.
O Nanak, speaking insipid words, the body and mind become insipid.

ਫਿਕੋ ਫਿਕਾ ਸਦੀਐ ਫਿਕੇ ਫਿਕੀ ਸੋਇ ॥
Fiko fikā saḏī▫ai fike fikī so▫e.
One is called the most insipid of the insipid; the most insipid of the insipid is his reputation.

ਫਿਕਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਸਟੀਐ ਮੁਹਿ ਥੁਕਾ ਫਿਕੇ ਪਾਇ ॥
Fikā ḏargėh satī▫ai muhi thukā fike pā▫e.
The insipid person is discarded in the court of the Lord, and the insipid one's face is spat upon.

ਫਿਕਾ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਆਖੀਐ ਪਾਣਾ ਲਹੈ ਸਜਾਇ ॥੧॥
Fikā mūrakẖ ākẖī▫ai pāṇā lahai sajā▫e. ||1||
The insipid one is called a fool; he is beaten with shoes in punishment. ||1||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 473

Guru Arjan said, "It is not proper for Sikhs to use bad language. I am not proud; the proud do not please God. I am God's slave. Our honour, strength, trust, and support are in the creator. Always fear God and no other."

Dignity In Humility

Then in full assembly of the darbar a Sikh rose, a native of the village Dalla, one Narain Das, a grandson of Bhai Paro, who had been a Sikh of Guru Amar Das. Putting his sheet round his neck in the manner of a lowly suppliant, he said, "True Guru, I am the slave of your feet. I have a daughter whom my wife and I have vowed to offer your son. If you make her the slave of your feet, I shall be very fortunate. I am a poor unhonoured Sikh. You are the honour of the unhonoured. Make your servant happy, and do not send me away disappointed."

The Guru replied, "If you have love in your heart, then is your proposal is fine with me. The seventh day of the light half of the month of Maghar, fixed on by Chandu as a date for the has not been in vain." Upon this Narain Das went off at once to arrange the marriage at his home in the village of Dalla.

Pride Swallowed

When the priest and the barber returned to Chandu everything they had heard and seen in Amritsar, the Guru's refusal and the reason thereof, the abuse of Chandu uttered by the Sikh in the darbar, the betrothal of (Guru) Hargobind and the actual appointment of a time for his marriage. Chandu was naturally very much incensed, but he wrote the Guru a letter, in which as a matter of policy he concealed his pride and resentment.

He began by magnifying the Guru and demeaning himself, and then continued, "It is certainly true that I said you are of an inferior caste to me. This expression thoughtlessly escaped my mouth, and someone has written and exaggerated it, and made you displeased with me. You are now the most worshipful Guru in the world, and it is right for you to consider everything. It is not proper for you to fall out with me for what lunatics and fake people tell you. If I interest myself for you with the emperor, he too will be at your service. I can give a large dowry to my daughter. Your son can keep marry other girls with whom you have formed alliances, but accept my daughter also. Great people contract many marriages."

Chandu's letter continued, "If you tell me I used overbearing language, I may or may not have done so, but it was in my own private house and not meant for others to hear. Your people in the public darbar have called me a dog. Well, let bygones be bygones, and I will have many favours conferred on you by the emperor. You are already on bad terms with your brother Prithi Chand. You ought to make me an ally. If you fall out with me too, you shall find no shelter. There are sparks flying about which if they increase, they will become a blazing lire which will be difficult to extinguish. You will not have this opportunity again. And if you have called me a dog I may become mad, and do you harm contrary to my saner judgement."

Too Little Too Late

Chandu dispatched this letter by the hands of the brahman. The Guru having read it said, "It is pride that ruins men. Pride of wealth is the basis of all ills. Men suffer for their acts and Chandu will not form an alliance with us. Those who the creator joins are united; but those who man joins are not. It is the Guru's duty to comply with the wishes of his Sikhs. Their words are immutable. What they once reject, it is not proper again to accept. Even were I to consent to Chandu's alliance, no good could result. He tempts with gain, but who would forfeit their soul as a result? As for his threats, I have no fear of them. God alone is the guardian of all."

The priest returned with this message without being able to prevail on the Guru to alter his determination. Chandu Shah could not imagine that the hand of his daughter could be refused by anyone. In a fury of temper, he decided to make plans to avenge himself on the Guru for the indignity hurled on him.

  • Gurdwara Sri Guru Ka Mehal

    Gurdwara Sri Guru Ka Mehal

    Amritsar City, Punjab, India.

    Associated with Sri Guru Ram Das Ji, Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.

    In 1573, Sri Guru Ram Das Ji built his home at the site of Gurdwara Sri Guru Ka Mehal as a residence for the Guru's family.

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