Mian Mir was a famous Sufi saint who resided in Lahore, specifically in the town of Dharampura (in present-day Pakistan). He was a direct descendant of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab. He belonged to the Qadiri order of Sufism. He is famous for being a spiritual instructor of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
Mian mir was a friend of God-loving people and he would shun worldly, selfish men, covetous Emirs and ambitious Nawabs who ran after faqirs to get their blessings. To stop such people from coming to see him, Mian Mir posted his mureeds (disciples) at the gate of his house.
Once, Jahangir, the Mughal emperor, with all his retinue came to pay homage to the great faqir. He came with all the pomp and show that befitted an emperor. Mian Mir's sentinels however, stopped the emperor at the gate and requested him to wait until their master had given permission to enter. Jahangir felt slighted. No one had ever dared delay or question his entry to any place in his kingdom. Yet he controlled his temper and composed himself. He waited for permission. After a while, he was ushered into Mian Mir's presence. Unable to hide his wounded vanity, Jahangir, as soon as he entered, told Mian Mir in Persian: Ba dar-e-darvis darbane naa-bayd ("On the doorstep of a faqir, there should be no sentry").
Pir Mian Mir, whose mind and soul were one with the Lord, caring little for the emperor's irritation, replied in Persian: Babayd keh sag-e-dunia na ayad ("They are there so that the dogs of the world/selfish men may not enter").
The emperor was ashamed and asked for forgiveness. Then, with folded hands, Jahangir requested Mian Mir to pray for the success of the campaign which he intended to launch for the conquest of the Deccan. Meanwhile, a poor man entered and, bowing his head to Mian Mir, made an offering of a rupee before him. The Pir asked the devotee to pick up the rupee and give it to the poorest, neediest person in the audience. The devotee went from one dervish to another but none accepted the rupee. The devotee returned to Mian Mir with the rupee saying: "Master, none of the dervishes will accept the rupee. None is in need, it seems."
"Go and give this rupee to him," said the faqir, pointing to Jahangir. "He is the poorest and most needy of the lot. Not content with a big kingdom, he covets the kingdom of the Deccan. For that, he has come all the way from Delhi to beg. His hunger is like a fire that burns all the more furiously with more wood. It has made him needy, greedy and grim. Go and give the rupee to him."
Guru Arjan Sahib, the fifth Sikh Guru, often visited Lahore, the birthplace of his father (the fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das) to meet his relatives. On the occasion of one of such visit, he called on Mian Mir. The two men of God met and became very close lifelong friends. Mian Mir was thirteen years older than Guru Arjan.
In 1606, Guru Arjan was implicated in the affair of Prince Khusraw, who had rebelled against his father, Jahangir. He was imprisoned in the Lahore fort and tortured. When Mian Mir heard about it, he came to see the Guru. He found Guru Arjan calm and serene, having completely resigned himself to the will of God. Mian Mir suggested to the Guru whether he should intercede with Emperor Jahangir on his behalf. The Guru forbade him saying that God's will must have its course unchecked, as it was not proper to interfere with its working.
A couple of years after the death of Guru Arjan, his son and successor Guru Hargobind, who was thirteen years of age was called on Mian Mir at Lahore.
Guru Tegh Bahadur, the son of Guru Hargobind and the ninth Guru, as a child met Mian Mir who blessed him.
Taken from "Sri Harmandir Sahib Sunehri Itihaas" published by Dharam Parchaar Committee SGPC
Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji and Baba Budha Ji consulted with the leading Sikhs of the time and set a day for setting the foundation stone of Sri Harmandir Sahib. A great congregation took place of 1 Maagh, 1654 Bk. The Sarovar had been drained in preparation and the divaan took place in the sarovar itself. Sri Guru Ji explained the meaning of Harmandir and the importance. After distributing karah parshaad and invoking the first four Satgurus, Baba Budha Ji asked Guru Arjan Sahib Ji to place the first brick.
Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji with his hands then placed the first brick:
ਇਮਿ ਅਰਦਾਸ ਕਰੀ ਿਬ੍ਰਧ ਜਬੈ। ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਰਜਨ ਕਰ ਪੰਕਜ ਤਬੈ॥੧੩॥ ਗਹੀ ਈਟ ਤਿਹ ਕਰੀ ਿਟਕਾਵਨ। ਮੰਦਰ ਅਿਵਚਲ ਨੀਵ ਰਖਾਵਨ। (Gurpartap Suraj Ras 2, Ansu 53).
It is clear that Gurpartap Suraj Granth says that Sri Guru Arjan laid the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib with his own hands.
Why the Confusion?
The first Sikh historian to write otherwise was Giani Gian Singh. In the third Lahore edition of Sri Gur Panth Parkash, he writes that Mian Mir placed the brick. What is odd is that Giani Ji in the first edition of Panth Parkash (published in Delhi, 1936Bk.) and in the second edition (published in Amritsar, 1946Bk) does not say who placed the first brick. Only in the third Lahore edition does he say that Mian Mir placed the first brick but does not say where he has learned this from nor does he give any reference.
From the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib to the writing of Panth Parkash, 300 years had passed. None of the writers of Gurbilas Patshahi 6, Gurbilas Patshahi 10, Mehma Parkash (1776), Bansavalinama, Gurkirat Parkash (1812), Suraj Granth nor Pracheen Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Bhangu had indicated that Mian Mir was involved in laying the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib.
Further, none of the Muslim writers who have written biographies of Mian Mir have written that he laid the foundation. This is odd because they would have been very proud to note such a fact. It seems clear that the story of Mian Mir laying the foundation is imaginary.
Butay Shah: Beginning the Myth
Principal Satbir Singh has written that the first person to write about Mian Mir having laid the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib was Butay Shah (real name Ghulam Muhaiyuddin) in his book "Tavarikh-i-Punjab." Butay Shah was a Muslim Maulvi. He writes, "Shah Mian Mir came to Amritsar at the invitation of Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji and with his holy hands, placed four bricks in the four directions and one in the middle."
A hand-written copy of this work says that it was written in 1848AD. The British were in control of Punjab at that time. No Sikh or non-Sikh writer had written about Mian Mir before this time. How did Butay Shah find his information? He has not given any source. The method he outlines of how the foundation was laid is also unusual and has not been seen or read anywhere before.
Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangoo writes about Butay Shah in Pracheen Panth Parkash. Rattan Singh had found out that the British had hired Shah to write the Khalsa's history in Persian. He protested that a Maulvi would not do justice to Sikh history because there had always been tension/conflict between Hindus and Sikhs and the Moslems and they spoke against each other.
Giani Gian Singh also writes about the above incident. He writes how Rattan Singh and Cpt. Murray discussed the issue and Rattan Singh told him that Sikh history written by a Maulvi would be of harm to the Sikhs and he did not write the truth. He told Murray that each person could write about his own religion for which he was knowledgeable but he could not write about another's religion properly especially in the case where there was conflict between the respective religions. He said clearly to Murray after seeing the history written by Butay Shah, "he will write history in a way that will harm the Singhs." And also "how will he write the truth? He will write what is the opposite." (Sri Guru Panth Parkash Poorbaardh Bisram dooa)"
After this, Rattan Singh wrote Panth Parkash and gave it to Cpt. Murray. Murray kept both Panth Parkash and Tavarikh-i-Punjab with him. Rattan Singh did not however write in Panth Parkash who placed the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib.
Clearly from what Rattan Singh told Cpt. Murray, he saw that Maulvi Butay Shah was writing Sikh history in a twisted and inaccurate way.
Which Account is Authentic?
Accepting Butay Shah's statement that Mian Mir placed the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib, Sohan Lal Suri in his book Umda-Tu-Tavarikh (1885 AD) repeated the same thing. In the same way, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation in their record for 1849 to 1885 seem to have relied on Butay Shah and recorded Mian Mir as having placed the foundation.
Before all these, Kavi Santokh Singh wrote in Gurpartap Sooraj Granth (1900BK) that Guru Arjan had placed the foundation. Bhai Santokh Singh had received his training at Sri Amritsar Sahib from Bhai Sant Singh. Bhai Sant Singh used to do Katha every day at Sri Darbar Sahib. Before him, his brother Giani Gurdas Singh and their father, Bhai Surat Singh used to do this seva at Sri Harmandir Sahib.
Bhai Surat Singh's ustad was Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, who had received his training in Gurmat and Sikh history from Bhai Mani Singh Ji himself. Bhai Mani Singh Ji had been in the Guru's service since the time of Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib. Bhai Sahib's grand father, Bhai Baloo Ji was a Sikh of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib and was shahid in the Battle of Amritsar in 1691Bk.
Bhai Mani Singh Ji must have known from his grandfather and father about the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib and certainly must have been told by the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth Guru of the same.
Bhai Mani Singh passed on his knowledge to Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, who then passed the knowledge to Bhai Surat Singh who educated his two sons, Bhai Gurdas Singh and Bhai Sant Singh. It was from Bhai Sant Singh that Kavi Santokh Singh learned of the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is clear that Kavi Santokh Singh's knowledge is more reliable than that of Butay Shah.
Butay Shah and Sohan Lal Suri do not have even a distant relationship with Sri Harimandir Sahib nor did their ancestors have any link. It is clear that these writers have not relied on anything besides their own imaginations. In fact, Butay Shah and Sohan Lal Suri's accounts do not match between themselves. Butay Shah writes that four bricks were placed in the four directions and one in the middle. He then writes that Mian Mir was invited to Amritsar by Guru Arjan Sahib Ji. Sohan Lal writes however that Guru Ji himself went to Lahore and invited Mian Mir to place the foundation of Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. There is no further mention of whether Mian Mir came to Amritsar and whether he placed one or five foundation bricks. In a court of law, where the statements of the witnesses don't match, they are not given any credence. Therefore the writings of Butay Shah and Sohan Lal cannot be accepted, especially since they have both been written after Gurpartap Suraj Granth.
Dr. Madanjit Kaur on the Issue
Sikh historian Dr. Madanjit Kaur writes in "The Golden Temple: Past and Present, "According to the earliest Sikh tradition, the foundation stone of the Harmander was laid by Guru Arjan himself. A mason, so goes the story, accidentally displaced the brick (the foundation stone). On seeing this, the Guru prophesized that the foundation would be laid again in the near future. This version of Bhai Santokh Singh is carried by almost all subsequent Sikh sources right up to the twentieth century …."
The author further writes: "The story of Mian Mir having laid foundation of Harmander appears amongst the Persian sources for the first time in Bute Shah's, ‘Tawarikh-I-Punjab'… The real objective of the author (Bute Shah) was to eradicate any chance of animosity between Sikhs and Muslims after fall of Sikh Kingdom…"
"The first recorded reference to this version in European sources is to be met immediately in, "The Punjab notes and queries". It records: ‘The foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir...' The contributor of the entry, E. Nicholl, (Secretary, Municipal Committee, Amritsar) does not cite any authority, he merely states the facts".
Renowned Sikh historian, S. Piara Singh Padam also accepts that Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji laid the foundation. He writes "Mian Mir was barely 36-37 years old at the time. Only after considerable meditation did he finally (later in life) become so respected."
Therefore it is clear that the foundation Sri Harmandir Sahib was laid by Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji. The myth of the foundation being laid by Sai Mian Mir is a fabrication of the mid 19th Century.
After having lived a long life of piety and virtuosity, Hazrat Mian Mir died on 11 August 1635. He was eighty-eight years old.
His funeral oration was read by Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, who was a highly devoted disciple.
He was buried at a place which was about a mile from Lahore near Alamganj, that is at the south-east of the city.
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