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Culture

  Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji Sacrificed His Life to Uphold the Right to Profess one's Religion

May 22, 2022 07:16 AM
Dr Amrit Kaur

(416th Martyrdom Day on June 3, 2022)

Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606), the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs was born on  Baisakh Vadi 7, 1620 Bikrimi i.e. April 15, 1563 at Goindwal Sahib, which now falls  in the present day Tarn Taran district of Punjab. He was the third and youngest son  of Bhai Jetha Ji who later named as Sri Guru Ram Das Ji became the Fourth Guru  of the Sikhs and Bibi (Lady) Bhani Ji, daughter of Sri Guru Amar Das Ji, the Third  Guru of the Sikhs.

From his early childhood he had a religious bent of mind. In view of his  spiritual temperament and dedication his father Sri Guru Ram Das Ji before leaving  for his heavenly abode on September 1, 1581, chose him as his successor to  Guruship. During the 25 years of his Guruship he provided a scriptural,   organizational and economic base to the Sikh religion. He was married to (Mata)  Ganga Ji and in June , 1595, a son was born who was named Hargobind Sahib.

The first major task that he undertook was the completion of Amritsar  sarover (the holy tank). Sri Guru Amar Das Ji, had instructed Bhai Jetha Ji to  establish a new town and to construct a sarovar (holy pool). Thus, a site was  selected 40 kms north-west of Goindwal Sahib. This new town was first named Guru  Ka Chakk (the Guru's village), then Ramdaspur (the city of Ram Das) and finally  Amritsar (the pool of nectar). The work of the sarovar at Amritsar had been started  by Sri Guru Ram Das Ji in 1577, but was completed by Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who  also raised the structure of Harimandar Sahib (also known as Golden Temple) in the  middle of it. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji requested Sain Mian Mir, a popular Muslim Sufi  Saint, to lay the cornerstone of this building. As stated by Ghulam Muhayy ud-Din,   Sain Mian Mir "with his own blessed hands put four bricks, one on each side and  another one in the middle of the tank." Contrary to the then existing tradition of  entrance of the temples to face the east, Harimandar Sahib had four entrances one  in each direction, implying thereby that it was open to people of all religions and  castes. In addition to the main building, a community kitchen to serve meals to  people from all castes and creeds, and rest houses for pilgrims were also  constructed. The completion of Harimandar Sahib was achieved with the installation  of the Holy Scripture, Sri Adi Granth Sahib in the center of the inner sanctuary on  August 16, 1604. To strengthen the economic base, markets were developed  around the main building to which he invited traders from far and distant regions to  settle and open their business.

In Amritsar, for compiling this Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, chose a  lonely place, Ramsar Sahib which is very near to Harimandar Sahib and at that time  was surrounded by jand (specigera), banyan, berry, fig and pipal trees. He himself  collected the hymns of Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji. He compiled the hymns of his four  predecessor Sikh Gurus to which he added his own hymns and thus compiled the  Holy Book i.e. Adi Granth Sahib. The Adi Granth Sahib is unique in the sense that  he included the hymns of Hindu and Muslim saints belonging to various castes and  creeds including both 'low' castes and 'high' castes. The work of compilation was  concluded on August 15, 1604. The sacred volume, thus in addition to the  compositions of the first five Gurus included compositions of fifteen Bhaktas and  Sufis from different parts of India. It contained 974 leaves i.e. 1948 pages 9¼" x 13¼" in size. He also constructed a sarovar at Ramsar Sahib.

A very major contribution of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji is the compilation  of Sri Adi (Primal) Granth Sahib, a voluminous anthology of the hymns (sacred  verses) uttered by the first four Gurus and his own hymns. Later on, Sri Guru  Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru with Bhai Mani Singh Ji as his amanuensis gave  this Holy Book the final form by including the verses of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur

Sahib, the Ninth Guru of the Sikhs and it became the Holy Scripture of the Sikhs now known as Sri Guru Granth Sahib which for the Sikhs is Guru Eternal. In compiling this Holy Scripture Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji announced that as the  Panth (community) has been revealed unto the world, so there must be a Granth (holy book), too. As a first step he approached Baba Mohan Ji, son of Sri Guru  Amar Das Ji at Goindwal Sahib who had pothis (manuscript collections) of the  hymns of the first three Gurus. The pothis were then placed on a palanquin  decorated with precious stones. The Sikhs carried the palanquin on their shoulders  and Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji walked behind barefooted to cover the 40 km distance  from Goindwal Sahib to Amritsar. They broke journey at Khadur Sahib. A few kms  short of Amritsar, a large number of Sikhs along with the young son of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji Hargobind Sahib had come to receive them. Hargobind Sahib  showered petals in front of the pothis. From then onwards Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji,   Hargobind Sahib, Bhai Gurdas Ji and Bhai Buddha Ji carried the palanquin on their  shoulders marching towards Amritsar led by musicians, playing flutes and beating  drums.

In Amritsar, for compiling this Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, chose a  lonely place, Ramsar Sahib which is very near to Harimandar Sahib and at that time  was surrounded by jand (specigera), banyan, berry, fig and pipal trees. He himself  collected the hymns of Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji. He compiled the hymns of his four  predecessor Sikh Gurus to which he added his own hymns and thus compiled the  Holy Book i.e. Adi Granth Sahib. The Adi Granth Sahib is unique in the sense that  he included the hymns of Hindu and Muslim saints belonging to various castes and  creeds including both 'low' castes and 'high' castes. The work of compilation was  concluded on August 15, 1604. The sacred volume, thus in addition to the  compositions of the first five Gurus included compositions of fifteen Bhaktas and  Sufis from different parts of India. It contained 974 leaves i.e. 1948 pages 9¼" x 13¼" in size. He also constructed a sarovar at Ramsar Sahib.

After getting it bound, Sri Adi Granth Sahib was ceremoniously installed in Sri  Harimandar Sahib on a decorated dais on August 16, 1604. Thus the 400th Anniversary of the installation of Sri Adi Granth Sahib compiled by Sri Guru Arjan  Dev Ji fell on August 16, 2004. A very major highlight of the year 2004 was that the  400th Anniversary of the installation of the Holy Granth was celebrated on August 16, 2004 by the Sikhs all over the world with a deep religious fervour.

This Holy Granth Sahib preaches universality of God, equality of mankind  and brotherhood. The hymns aim at dispelling the caste, creed and colour  prejudices. The first copy was caligraphed by Bhai Gurdas Ji at Sri Guru Arjan Dev  Ji's dictation in which the compositions of the first four Gurus, his own compositions  and the compositions of fifteen Bhaktas and Sufis were preserved. Adi Granth Sahib  thus became an authorized volume. The compilation of Sri Adi Granth Sahib reveals  his rare spiritual insight and poetic sense. His own compositions as well as editing of  the bani (hymns) of other Gurus, Bhaktas and Sufis reflects his many-sided learning  and intellectual in-depth.

To spread Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji's message he travelled through majha  territory and constructed a shrine and sarovar at Tarn Taran Sahib which is 24 kms  south of Amritsar. While at Tarn Taran Sahib, one day while going for a morning  walk he came across a group of 4-5 persons who seemed to be forcing a person to  accompany them. The person was wailing with pain. On being asked by Guru Sahib

who they were and where they were taking the man, he was told that the man in pain  was a choudhary (a rich man) of village Muradpur and was afflicted with leprosy and inspite of many treatments it had not been possible to cure him. As per his wishes he  was being taken to river Beas for drowning. Guru Sahib asked these men to take  that leper to Tarn Taran Sahib where he himself treated the leper and cured him. He then established a Leper's Home at Tarn Taran Sahib where a large number of  lepers started coming for treatment whom he treated.

During his tours he encouraged people to dig wells to alleviate the hardship  caused by famine. He also undertook several other activities of public welfare. He  raised the town of Kartarpur now in Jallandhar district and in 1587 rebuilt a ruined  village Ruhela and renamed it Sri Gobindpur now named as Sri Hargobindpur  which falls in District Gurdaspur. His travels motivated several people from Kabul  and Central Asia to come into the fold of Sikhism. He appointed masands (local  leaders) at far off places to look after the Sikh sangat and collect dasvandh i.e one

tenth of their income for community's sharing. A contemporary Persian source the  Dabistan-i-Muzahib states that "during the time of each Mahal (Guru) the Sikhs  increased till in the reign of Guru Arjan Mall they became numerous and there  were not many cities in the inhabited countries where some Sikhs were not found."

As fate would have it, in 1605 Emperor Jahangir succeeded Akbar on the throne of Delhi. Jahangir depended mostly on the orthodox section of his courtiers.  As advised by these courtiers, Jahangir developed a hatred for non-Muslims and felt alarmed at the ever increasing following of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. As Jahangir

has written in his book Tuzk, " So many of the simple-minded Hindus, nay many foolish Muslims too had been fascinated by the Guru's ways and teachings. For many years the thought had been presenting itself to my mind that either I should  put an end to this false traffic, or that he be brought into the fold of Islam." Thus,   Jahangir was on the lookout for an occasion to kill Guru Sahib.

Within a few months of Jahangir's succession, his son Khusrau, rebelled against him and, on his way to Lahore, met Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji at Goindwal  Sahib to seek his blessings. According to the historical evidence Khusrau partook  of the hospitality of Guru ka Langar (community meal) and resumed his journey the  following morning. Jahangir decided to use this incident as a pretext to kill Guru  Sahib. After the rebellion by Khusrau was suppressed Jahangir decided to take  vengeance on the people he suspected of having helped his son. In this context  Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was heavily fined and on his refusal to pay the fine was  arrested. To quote again from Jahangir's Memoirs, "I fully knew of his heresies,   and I ordered that he should be brought into my presence, that his property be  confiscated and that he should be put to death with torture."

Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was taken to Lahore where he was asked to court  Islam or death. Firm in his attitude of not changing his religion and upholding the  right of a person to follow the religion of his own choice he refused to get converted  to Islam. He was subjected to various types of physical torture. He was made to sit  on a red-hot iron sheet with fire burning under it and hot sand was poured on him.  Still refusing to change his religion, he was put in a large deg (pot) of boiling water.  The place where Guru Sahib was tortured was a platform outside the Fort of  Lahore near the river Ravi. 

Finally, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was taken to Ravi river. A dip in the river's  water was more than the blistered body could bear. On May 30, 1606 engrossed in  meditation he left for his heavenly abode. He became the first Sikh shaheed  (martyr). As a contemporary Jesuit-document, a letter written from Lahore on  September 25, 1606 by Father Zerome Xavier says, "In that way their good Pope  died, overwhelmed by the sufferings, torments, and dishonours." Sri Guru Arjan  Dev Ji fulfilled the ethical injunctions of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji that willingness to  suffer trial for one's conviction was a religious imperative. 

In the eighteenth century at the place where Guru Sahib was subjected to  various types of tortures, a shrine named Gurdwara Dehra Sahib was erected.  This place now falls in Pakistan. Every year on Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji's martyrdom  day thousands of Sikhs from all over the world assemble in this Gurdwara Sahib to  pay their homage. In 2016 his Martyrdom day was observed on June 8 all over the  world except that at Gurudwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore in Pakistan it was observed  on June 6, 2016 as per Nanakshahi Calender adopted in 2013. On this occasion  the Pakistan Govt. announced that (i) in November 2016 on the Birth Anniversary  of Sri guru Nanak Dev Ji the Foundation Stone will be laid for establishing "Sri  Guru Nanak Dev Ji World University" (ii) at Kartarpur Sahib usually referred to as  Kartarpur (Ravi) to distinguish it from the town with the same name in Jallandhar  district, from which Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji left for his heavenly adobe and which  now falls in District Narowal of Pakistan, the work of constructing Angitha Sahib  was entrusted to Sikh Sangat of Canada and that (iii) on the occasion of the next  death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh foundation Stone was laid for erecting  a monument in the sacred memory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. 

During the last six years many developments have taken place pertaining  to these announcements by the Pakistan Govt. The process of establishing 'Sri  Guru Nanak Dev Ji World University' at Nankana Sahib is under-way. On the  occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in November,   2019 Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, District Narowal, Pakistan was made accessible  to Sikhs on the basis of a permit (The details about the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor  will be given in another write-up). 

In 2021, because of COVID the Pakistan Govt. did not allow the Sikh  Jatha from India on this occasion to go to Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore. But this  year the Pakistan Government has granted visas to Sikh Jathas to go to Gurdwara  Dehra Sahib, Lahore to pay their homage to the great Martyr Sri Guru Arjan Dev

Ji. This year i.e. in 2022 Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji's Martyrdom day will be observed on June 3 when the Sikhs all over the world would pay their obeisance to this great  martyr. 

DHAN DHAN SRI GURU ARJAN DEV JI!

  1. 2. 3. 4.

Captions of the four photographs pertaining to Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji: 1. Picture of the tortures being inflicted on Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji at Lahore.  2. Gurdwara Ramsar Sahib, Amritsar where Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji compiled Sri  Adi Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture. 

  1. Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore (now in Pakistan) on the bank of river Ravi where Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji attained martyrdom.
  2. Picture of Sri Darbar Sahib, Tarn Taran Sahib, Distt. Tarn Taran where Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji treated the lepers.

Dr. Amrit Kaur

Retd. Professor

Punjabi University 

Patiala, Punjab

India

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