Bhai Gurdas (1551 – 25 August 1636) was a Punjabi Sikh writer, historian, preacher and religious figure. He was the original scribe of the Guru Granth Sahib and a companion of four of the Sikh Gurus.
Bhai Gurdas was born in 1551 in Goindwal, a small village in the Punjab. His father was Bhai Ishardas, who was a first cousin of Guru Amar Das (see family tree). His mother's name was Jivani and she died in 1554 when Gurdas was only three.
After being orphaned at the age of 12, he was adopted by his uncle Guru Amar Das. He learned Sanskrit, Brajbhasha, Persian and Punjabi (Gurmukhi) and eventually began preaching. He spent his early years at Goindval and Sultanpur Lodhi. At Goindval he listened to scholars and swamis who kept visiting the town while traversing the Delhi-Lahore road. He later moved to Varanasi, where he studied Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. After Guru Amar Das passed on, his successor Guru Ram Das appointed Gurdas as the missionary to Agra.
In 1577, Bhai Gurdas contributed his labor to excavating the pool at the Harmandir Sahib. Twenty years later, he went on an expedition to Kartarpur and recited many of the early hymns to Emperor Akbar. This was at a time when many of the Sikhs were becoming very anti-Muslim in tone and family feuds within the Gurus' family had put Sikhism in danger. Akbar received the verses positively and became convinced there were no anti-Muslim suggestions.
After Guru Ram Das passed on, Bhai Gurdas formed a close relationship with the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan. Guru Arjan had great respect for him, and regarded Bhai Gurdas as his maternal uncle ("mama"). It is said that the Mughal emperor Jahangir was growing jealous of the popularity of Sikhism, and Bhai Gurdas was sent to Kabul, Kashmir, Rajasthan, and Varanasi again to preach Sikhism. He even went to Sri Lanka, preaching the name of the Guru among the masses and showing them the true way of life.
He completed the Adi Granth in 1604. It took him nearly 19 years to complete this task. Bhai Gurdas not only wrote the Adi Granth as dictated by Guru Arjan but also supervised four other scribes, Bhai Haria, Bhai Sant Das, Bhai Sukha and Bhai Manasa Ram, in the writing of various scriptures. His other works in Punjabi are collectively called Varan Bhai Gurdas.
Elevation as the First Jathedar of Akal Takhat
The Akal Takht was revealed by Guru Hargobind on 15 June 1606. The foundation stone of the building of the Akal Takht was laid down by Guru Hargobind himself. The rest of the structure was completed by Baba Buddha (the veteran Sikh servant) and by Bhai Gurdas (Sikh scholar) only. No mason or any other person was permitted to participate in the construction of the structure. Guru Hargobind himself was the Custodian of the Takht of Waheguru. According to a source, when Guru Hargobind remained in Gwalior Fort prison, he asked Baba Buddha to perform the services of Darbar Sahib (HARIMANDAR SAHIB) and Bhai Gurdas to take care of Akal Takht. It was the appointment of Bhai Gurdas as the First Jathedar of Akal Takht.
- 6 Chands of 8 verses each in Sanskrit.
- 672 Kabits and 3 swayyas in Braj Bhasha.
- 40 Vars containing 912 pauris (in Punjabi).