Guru Arjan

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Guru Arjan
ਗੁਰੂ ਅਰਜਨ
Guru Arjan.jpg
Born 15 April 1563 (1563-04-15)
Goindval, Tarn Taaran, India
Died 30 May 1606(1606-05-30) (aged 43)[citation needed]
Other names The Fifth Master
Years active 1581–1606
Known for Compiled and installed the Adi Granth; built the Harmandir Sahib.
Predecessor Guru Ram Das
Successor Guru Hargobind
Spouse(s) Mata Ganga
Children Guru Hargobind
Parent(s) Guru Ram Das and Mata Bhani

Guru Arjan ([ɡʊru əɾdʒən]; 15 April 1563 – 30 May[citation needed] 1606) was the first martyr of Sikh faith and the fifth of the eleven Sikh Gurus, who compiled writings to create the eleventh, the living Guru, Guru Granth Sahib. He was born in Goindval, Punjab the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and Bibi Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amar Das.[1] He was the first Sikh Guru put on trial and executed by the Mughal Empire.[2]

Guru Arjan lived as the Guru of Sikhism for a quarter of a century. Guru Arjan completed the construction of Amritsar and founded other cities, such as Taran Taran and Kartarpur. The greatest contribution he made to the Sikh faith was to compile all of the past Gurus' writings, along with selected writings of other saints from different backgrounds which he considered consistent with the teachings of Sikhism into one book, now the holy scripture: the Guru Granth Sahib. It is, perhaps, the only script which still exists in the form first published (a hand-written manuscript) by the Guru.[3]

Guru Arjan organised the Masand system, a group of representatives who taught and spread the teachings of the Gurus and also received the Dasvand, partial offering of a Sikh's income (in money, goods or service) that Sikhs paid to support the building of Gurdwara Sahib, Langar (shared communal kitchens) originally intended to share with sense of love, respect and equality, still an important element today in any Gurdwara. The Langars were open to any visitors and were designed from the start to stress the idea of equality and a casteless society.


Guru Arjan being pronounced as fifth Guru.

Continuing the efforts of Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan established Amritsar as a primary Sikh pilgrimage destination. He wrote a voluminous amount of Sikh scripture including the popular Sukhmani Sahib.

Compiling the Adi Granth, Guru Arjan gave Sikhs an example of religious and moral conduct, as well as a rich body of sacred poetry. His starting of collection of offerings by way of Masand system, in a systematic way, accustomed them to a regular government. He traded in horses, though not extensively, and encouraged his followers to follow his example, to be as zealous in trade as they were in their faith.[4] Guru Arjan became famous among his pious devotees and his biographers dwell on the number of Saints and Holy men who were edified by his instructions.[4] He was equally heeded by men in high positions. During his time, the teaching and philosophy of Guru Nanak took a firm hold on the minds of his followers.

The economic well-being of the country is closely linked with the monsoon. With a view to alleviating the sufferings of the peasants, Guru Arjan helped the villagers in digging six-channel Persian wheel (Chhehrta) wells, which irrigated their fields. Chheharta is a living monument of his efforts in this direction.


During the period of Guru Arjan, the Sikh Panth steadily extended its influence in Punjab, notably among the rural population and Jats. The Mughal rulers of Punjab were alarmed at the growth of the Panth. The Mughal emperor Jahangir wrote in his autobiography Tuzk-e-Jahangiri that too many people were becoming persuaded by Guru Arjan's teachings and if he did not become a Muslim the Sikh Panth had to be extinguished. Jahangir criticized the Guru for starting a "shop" selling ideas challenging the established religions in the Mughal Empire. Jahangir's rebellious eldest son, the Mughal prince Khusrau passed through Goindval, while trying to build an army for the revolt, and met Guru Arjan who gave him his blessings. When Jahangir heard that Guru Arjan had blessed Khusrau he ordered the Guru's execution. This incident and the reason for order of the Guru's execution is noted by Jahangir in his autobiography. According to Sikh tradition, before his death, Guru Arjan instructed his son and successor Hargobind to take up arms. He also instructed the Sikh Panth to be armed. The Guru was imprisoned in Lahore Fort, where he was tortured and executed. Whether his death was due to execution, torture or drowning in the Ravi river remains unresolved.[5][6][7][8]

Jahangir was angered by the number of Muslims who converted to Sikhism. Professor J. F. Richard's view that Jahangir was "persistently hostile to popularly venerated religious figures"[9] is instructive, though it appears that Jahangir only took action against religious figures he saw as threats to the state.

J.S. Grewal notes that Sikh sources from the seventeenth and eighteenth century contain contradictory reports of Guru Arjan's death.[10][11]

Bhai Gurdas, a contemporary of Guru Arjan and noted Sikh chronicler, recorded his death.[12] In the 1740s, Chaupa Singh, who was close to Guru Gobind Singh, placed the blame on Chandu Lal, a Hindu official in Lahore, whom he accused of having the Guru arrested and executed after he turned down Chandu Shah's offer of marriage between Chandu's daughter and Hargobind.[13]

A contemporary Jesuit account, written in early 17th century by Spanish Jesuit missionary into the Mughal court Father Jerome Xavier (1542–1605), who was in Lahore at the time, records that the Sikhs managed to get Jahangir to commute the death sentence to a heavy fine, for which a rich individual, possibly a Sikh, stood as guarantor.[14] The Guru however refused to let a fine be paid for him and even refused when a longtime friend of his, Sufi Sai Mian Mir, tried interceding on his behalf. Jahangir tortured Guru Arjan in the hopes of extracting the money, but the Guru refused to give the fine and was executed.[15]


  1. ^ Mcleod, Hew (1997). Sikhism. London: Penguin Books. p. 28. ISBN 0-14-025260-6. 
  2. ^ [Understanding the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev - by Pashora Singh, University of Michigan, Journal of Philosophical Studies]
  3. ^ Mahajan, Vidya Dhar. "Ch. 10". Muslim Rule In India (fifth ed.). p. 232. 
  4. ^ a b Cunningham, J.D. (1853). "Gooroo Arjoon". A History of the Sikhs. John Murray. 
  5. ^ W.H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 20. ISBN 9780810863446. 
  6. ^ Rajmohan Gandhi. Punjab:A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten. Aleph Book Company. p. 34. ISBN 9789383064410. 
  7. ^ A.S. Bhalla (2008). In Search of Roots: Guru Amar Das and Bhallas. Rupa Publications. p. 20. ISBN 9788129113337. 
  8. ^ Subodh Kapoor (2002). Indian Encyclopaedia, Volume 1. Genisis Publishing Pvt. Ltd. p. 20. ISBN 9788177552577. 
  9. ^ Richards, John F. The Mughal Empire, in The New Cambridge History of India. 1, 5. Gen eds. Chris Bayly, Gordon Johnson, John F. Richards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 97.
  10. ^ J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, in The New Cambridge History of India. 2, 3. Gen eds. Chris Bayly, Gordon Johnson, John F. Richards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 63-64.
  11. ^ Bachiatr Natak, 5:11Bachiatr Natak, 5:11
  12. ^ Vir Singh, ed. Varam Bahi Gurdas Satki, 9th edition. New Delhi: Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, 1997), p. 386.
  13. ^ W. H. McLeod, ed. and trans. The Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama. Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1987), p. 107.
  14. ^ Father Jerome to Father Gasper Fernandes, (BM add MS 9854, ff. 38-52), 1617, in Sicques, Tigers or Thieves: Eyewitness Accounts of the Sikhs (1606-1809). Eds. Amandeep Singh Madra and Parmjit Singh. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, p. 7.
  15. ^ Mobad', Dabistan-i Mazahib, 1645-46, in Sikh history from Persian sources. Eds. J.S. Grewal and Irfan Habib. Indian History Congress: Tulika, 2001. p. 67.


  1. Tuzuk-i-Jahagiri or Memoirs of Jahagir, Translated by Alexander Rogers. Edited by Henry Beveridge Published by Low Price Publication. ISBN 978-81-7536-148-5
  2. History of the Panjab, Syad Muhammad Latif, Published by: Kalyani Publishers, Ludhiana, Punjab, India. ISBN 978-81-7096-245-8
  3. Philosophy of 'Charhdi Kala' and Higher State of Mind in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Dr. Harjinder Singh Majhail, 2010, Published by: Deepak Publishers, Jalandhar, Punjab, India. ISBN 81-88852-96-1
  4. SIKH HISTORY IN 10 VOLUMES,Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer, Published by: The Sikh University Press, Brussels, Belgium. ISBN 2- 930247-41-X

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Guru Ram Das
Sikh Guru
1 September 1581 – 25 May 1606
Succeeded by
Guru Har Gobind