In order to teach the hindu masses the truth about God and their beliefs, Guru Amar Das set out for the Ganges at Haridwar. Guru Amar Das had been to Haridwar many times before becoming a Sikh and wanted others to learn the truth behind hindu rituals. By the time the Guru had crossed the river Beas and arrived in the Doab, he found himself accompanied by a great concourse of people.
It had become publicly known that the Sikhs were exempted from the ordinary non-muslim jizya tax, so people flocked to them in numbers. They would have a sight of the Guru, they would perform their pilgrimage with singing and music, they would live on the Guru's kitchen, they would be exempted from the pilgrim tax, they would be protected from robbers, and they would have the advantage of bathing with all due ceremonial and observances at the renowned place of pilgrimage.
For all these reasons several thousands followed in the Guru's train. The Guru sometimes walked with a stick, but more generally rode, on account of his extreme age. Having crossed the Satlej he went to Pehowa, a place of pilgrimage not far from Thanesar or Kurukshetra, where in days long past, on the margin of the Saraswati, rishis and munis performed painful penance and austerities.
The pandits and brahmans of the place were well pleased to see the Guru, and they went and sat in his court. He then proceeded to Thanesar or the place par excellence of Shiv the destroyer. The Guru was asked why he had abandoned Sanskrit, alleged by hindus to be the language of the gods, and why he composed hymns in the vulgar tongue (Punjabi).
Guru Amar Das replied, "Well-water can only irrigate adjacent land, but rain-water the whole world. On this account the Guru has composed his hymns in the vulgar dialect, and enshrined them in the Gurmukhi characters, so that men and women of all castes and classes may read them." A brahman replied, "Clouds rain on the earth, but is there not water enough in the earth already?"
The Guru replied, "You say, clouds rain upon the earth, but is there not water enough in the earth already? I reply, there is, it is true, water in the earth, but water only appears when the clouds rain." In this allegory the water in the earth means recondite Sanskrit literature; the water from the clouds, the Guru's instruction, which is continually poured down for the benefit of the world. The pandit said that religious instruction ought not to be communicated to every one, it being forbidden to instruct shudras (low caste) and women in the sacred lore.
Guru Amar Das replied, "Dispel such doubts. It is God who does whatever is done; all who exist shall be absorbed in God. What is the effect of the union of female and male without the interposition of God? The different forms, O God, which appear are ever you, and at the last they shall all be resolved in you. I have been led astray through so many births; now that I have found you I am as if I had never strayed. One who is absorbed in the Guru's word, shall thoroughly know God who made this world. God is the Word, there is none but God; where is room for doubt? Nanak, he whose essence is united with the essence of God shall not be born again."
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Gauri
Guru Amar Das proceeded to the river Jamna, whose dark ripples delighted his eyes. There arose a slight unexpected difficulty. Every pilgrim endeavoured to escape taxation by saying he was a Sikh and follower of the Guru. The tax-gatherers waited on the Guru, and asked him to separate or name his own immediate followers, and they should pass free, but all others must pay.
The Guru replied, "If you want taxes, I will give you whatever money you require; but if, in obedience to the Emperor's order of exemption, you do not tax my Sikhs, they shall all be known by their uttering 'Sat Naam! Waheguru!' None may be expelled from the Guru's company; whoever comes as a friend is respected."
When Guru Amar Das was crossing the Jamna, thousands of people who were not Sikhs accompanied him, crying out 'Sat Naam! Waheguru!' and passed over untaxed. After preaching at the Jamna Guru Amar Das proceeded in the direction of Haridwar. He rested under a tree on the way at a place called Kankhal (within Haridwar), three miles to the south of the great hindu source of cholera and devotion.
As Guru Amar Das approached Haridwar the crowd which gathered round him assumed still vaster proportions. When the tax gatherers tried to impose a tax on any of them, they were met with the angry reply, "Have I not said Waheguru? Am I not the Guru's Sikh?" Nothing was put into the boxes of the tax gatherers and they went to their homes without the usual receipts.
Guru Amar Das spoke to his Sikhs and said, "As the tax gatherers have not been able to prevail against you, so Death, another tax gatherer, shall have no power against those who repeat 'Sat Naam! Waheguru!'. This was an example of where one dies to be reborn, by reciting God's name one with faith one is able to escape the pains of birth and death.
The Guru having returned to Haridwar after so many years absence was received with great distinction and demonstrations of friendship by jogis, bairagis, sanyasis, brahmacharis, pandits, etc. They disclosed to him their spiritual doubts and difficulties, which he successfully solved.
When Guru Amar Das was subsequently visited by the Chaudhri and the heads of the lay population of Haridwar, they asked him why he caused the four castes of hindus to do him homage when he himself did homage to no one. He replied that the brahmans were already very proud, and, if he paid them homage, their pride would only increase the more.
And as regards the homage paid to him by the four castes, neither he nor his predecessors required it from any one. It was only when the earth, overladen with the burden of sin, raised its protest to God, that Guru Nanak appeared to point out the easy path of salvation, and not to obtain the praise or homage of human beings.
When the Guru and his party had all returned to Goindwal, Bhai Jetha (the future Guru Ram Das), in response to numerous inquiries and requests, gave the following metrical account of the recent tour;
"A sight of the true Guru was our bathing during the Abhijit (the lunar month, though generally considered 28 days is really only 27 days, odd hours, minutes, and seconds. Abhijit was intercalated between the 2ist and 22nd asterisms to adjust the difference) The filth of evil inclinations was cleansed, and the darkness of ignorance dispelled. The ignorance of those who saw the Guru was dispelled, and light beamed on their hearts. The pains of transmigration vanished in a moment, and people obtained God the imperishable Lord. God the Creator itself made this auspicious time, when the true Guru went to the fair at Kurukshetra. A sight of the true Guru was our bathing during the Abhijit."
"Sikhs travelled with the true Guru on his journey. Every day, every hour, and every moment service was held; God's service was held, and all people came to behold the Guru. God blended with itself those who obtained a sight of him. The true Guru made the toil of the tour in order to save all people; And Sikhs travelled with the true Guru on his journey."
"It was an auspicious time when the true Guru first arrived in Kurukshetra. When it was known, the beings of the three worlds came to behold him. All the demigods, munis, and saints of the three worlds came to behold him. The sins of those who touched the perfect true Guru were all erased. Jogis, digambars, sanyasis, and men of the six schools entered into conversation with him. It was an auspicious time when the Guru arrived in Kurukshetra."
"The Guru then proceeded to the Jamna where he caused people to repeat God's name. The tax-gatherers met the Guru with offerings and allowed his followers to cross over. All those in the Guru's train who meditated on God, were exempted from toll. Death the tax-gatherer approacheth not those who walk in the true way according to the Guru's instruction. Everybody took the Guru's name, and by taking it all the pilgrims were excused toll."
The Guru then proceeded to the Jamna where he caused people to repeat God's name.
"After that he went to the Ganges and there was a marvellous scene. All were entranced on seeing the saintly Guru, and there too no one took half a dam from him. No one paid half a dam (an ancient Indian coin or money-measure of very small value, twenty-five dams being equal to a paisa of Indian or a farthing of English money) or put any money into the toll box; the toll collectors mouths were sealed. They said, 'Brethren, what shall we do? of whom shall we ask? Every one is escaping under cover of the Guru.' The toll-collectors by their skill and cleverness saw it was best to close their boxes and go away. After that the Guru went to the Ganges, and there was a marvellous scene."
"The leading men of the city went in a body, and took shelter in the true Guru. They asked the true Guru concerning God, and he proved God's existence from the Simritis. The Simritis and Shastars all established God's existence; Shukdev, Prahlad, and Sri Ram uttering God's name meditated on God. In the city of the body is the fort of the soul which the five deadly sins would rob, but the Guru has destroyed their abode. The Purans everywhere contain praises of offerings, but it is from Guru Nanak's words God's service is obtained. The leading men of the city went in a body and took shelter in the true Guru."
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Tukhari
Associated with Sri Guru Amar Das Ji.
Gurdwara Sri Guru Amar Das Sahib, located on the bank of the river Ganga, is a truly amazing heritage site.
Gurmat Gyan (Knowledge)
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