Guru Amar Das
ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰ ਦਾਸ
5 May 1479
|Died||1 September 1574 (aged 95)|
|Children||Bhai Mohan (1507 - 1567) |
Bhai Mohri (1514 - 1569)
Bibi Dani (1526 - 1569)
Bibi Bhani (1532 - 1598)
|Parent||Tej Bhan & Mata Lachmi Devi|
|Other names||Third Master|
|Period in office||1552–1574|
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Guru Amar Das (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰ ਦਾਸ, pronunciation: [gʊɾuː əməɾᵊ d̯aːsᵊ]; 5 May 1479 – 1 September 1574), sometimes spelled as Guru Amardas, was the third of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism and became Sikh Guru on 26 March 1552 at age 73.[failed verification]
Before becoming a Sikh (Shishya from Sanskrit), on a pilgrimage after having been prompted to search for a guru, he heard his nephew's wife, Bibi Amro, reciting a hymn by Guru Nanak, and was deeply moved by it. Amro was the daughter of Guru Angad, the second and then current Guru of the Sikhs. Amar Das persuaded Amro to introduce him to her father  and in 1539, Amar Das, at the age of sixty, met Guru Angad and became a Sikh, devoting himself to the Guru. In 1552, before his death, guru Angad appointed Amar Das as the third Guru of Sikhism.
Guru Amar Das was an important innovator in the teachings of Guru who introduced a religious organization called the Manji system by appointing trained clergy, a system that expanded and survives into the contemporary era. He wrote and compiled hymns into a Pothi (book) that ultimately helped create the Adi Granth.
Amar Das was born to mother Bakht Kaur (also known as Sullakhani, Lakhmi Devi, or Rup Kaur[note 1]) and father Tej Bhan Bhalla on 5 May 1479 in Basarke village in what is now called Amritsar district of Punjab (India). His grandfather was Hari Das. His family belonged to the Bhalla gotra (clan) of the Khatri tribe. Amar Das was the eldest child out of four sons. Amar Das worked as both an agriculturalist and a trader.
In his early 20s, Amar Das married Mansa Devi and they had four children which they named Dani (daughter; born in 1530), Bhani (daughter; born 3 August 1533), Mohan (son; born 11 March 1536), and Mohri (son; born 2 June 1539).[note 2] Bhani was his favourite child of the four.
Amar Das had followed the Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism for much of his life. He was reputed to have gone on some twenty annual pilgrimages into the Himalayas, to Haridwar on river Ganges. About 1539, on one such Hindu pilgrimage, he met a Hindu monk (sadhu) who asked him why he did not have a guru (teacher, spiritual counselor) and Amar Das decided to get one. On his return from his twentieth pilgrimage to the Ganges River, he heard Bibi Amro, the daughter of the Sikh Guru Angad, singing a hymn by Guru Nanak. Amro had been acquainted with Amar Das through her in-laws, whom Amar Das was related to (Amro was married to the son of Amar Das' brother). He learned from her about Guru Angad, and with her help met the second Guru of Sikhism and adopted him as his spiritual Guru who was much younger than his own age.
Service of Guru Angad
Amar Das is famous in the Sikh tradition for his relentless service to Guru Angad, with legends about waking up in the early hours and fetching water for his Guru's bath, cleaning and cooking for the volunteers with the Guru, as well devoting much time to meditation and prayers in the morning and evening.
Due to his selfless devotion to the second guru, Angad nominated Amar Das as his spiritual successor on 29 March 1552.
After eleven years most devoted service of the Guru and the sangats, Amar Das was nominated the third guru. Guru Amar Das moved to Goindwal situated not far away from Khadur on the bank of river Beas on the high road to Lahore, about 8 kilometres from Kapurthala and 45 kms. from Amritsar. He did so to avoid the pending conflict with Guru Angad's sons who had not approved of their supersession. Even at Goindwal he was harassed by Angad's son Datu. He went to Goindwal and said: "Only yesterday thou wert a water-carrier in our house, and today thou sittest as a Guru. "Saying this he kicked the Guru off his seat. Amar Das humbly said: "O great king, pardon me. Thou must have hurt thy foot." The Guru retired from Goindwal and hid himself in a house at Basarke, his home village. Datu set himself up as the Guru. Amar Das was persuaded by Baba Buddha to return, and Datu, finding no following, went back to Khadur.
Guru Amar Das taught with his own life the meaning of Guru Service, also known in Punjabi religious parlance as Guru Sewa. (also spelt Seva). Amar Das emphasized both spiritual pursuits as well as an ethical daily life. He encouraged his followers to wake up before dawn, do their ablutions and then meditate in silent seclusion. A good devotee, taught Amar Das, should be truthful, keep his mind in control, eat only when hungry, seek the company of pious men, worship the Lord, make an honest living, serve holy men, not covet another's wealth and never slander others. He recommended holy devotion with Guru's image in his follower's hearts.
Amar Das was also a reformer, and discouraged veiling of women's faces (a Muslim custom) as well as sati (a Hindu custom). He encouraged the Kshatriya people to fight in order to protect people and for the sake of justice, stating this is Dharma. He promoted inter-caste marriages, going against the traditional Punjabi social orthodoxy at the time by doing-so. He also promoted the remarriage of widows. He promulgated monogamy as the ideal romantic relationship type.
Religious organization and missionary dissemination
Guru Amar Das started the tradition of appointing manji (zones of religious administration with an appointed chief called sangatias, whom were both men and women), introduced the dasvandh ("the tenth" of income) system of revenue collection in the name of Guru and as pooled community religious resource, and the famed langar tradition of Sikhism where anyone, without discrimination of any kind, could get a free meal in a communal seating. He also started and inaugurated the 84-level step well called baoli at Goindval with a resting place, modeled along the lines of the Indian tradition of dharmsala, which then became a Sikh pilgrimage (tirath) center. Another organization analogous of the Manji was the Piri, which involved an appointed preaching official and missionary for Sikh assemblies and congregations whom were all women and instructed to spread Sikhism amongst womankind (especially women belonging to Muslim backgrounds). According to W. Owen Cole, establishment of the manji and piri systems may have been motivated by the large amounts of new converts coming into the Sikh faith, especially in the Punjab. However, many of these converts brought in beliefs and practices of their original faith, so the preachers were appointed to instruct them on proper Sikh orthodoxy and orthopraxy, essentially motivating them to choose the Sikh faith and all that comes with it, even if it involves discarding their old ways of spirituality in the process. He appointed women to become the congregation leaders of the jurisdictions of Afghanistan and Kashmir. The women appointed for leading the Piri system of disseminating Sikhism to women were Bhani (his younger daughter), Bibi Dani (his elder daughter), and Bibi Pal, all of whom were intellectual types. The Piri system also educated womenfolk in social plus religious norms and customs.
Banning of Sati
Guru Amar Das was a strong opponent of sati, the practice of widowed wives being immolated on the funeral pyre of their deceased husband during the latter's cremation. He states the following regarding the practice:
"Women are not Satis, who burn themselves with their husband's corpse.
Rather they are Satis who die by the mere shock of separation from their husband
And, they, too, ought to be considered as Satis, who abide in modesty and contentment,
Who wait upon their Lord and rising in the morn ever remember him."— Guru Amar Das, Var Suhi of the Guru Granth Sahib (page 787), translation from Indian Feminism: Class, Gender & Identity in Medieval Ages (2016) by Rukhsana Iftikhar
He further states:
"Women are burnt in the fire with their husbands
They undergo sufficient pain by their death.
And if they appreciated not their husbands
Nanak, why should they be burnt at all?"— Guru Amar Das, translation from Indian Feminism: Class, Gender & Identity in Medieval Ages (2016) by Rukhsana Iftikhar
Opposing the Purdah system
Purdah is a traditional custom of women obscuring their face and bodies when in the company of men and secluding themselves from the company of men. Guru Amar Das was vehemently against this custom and is said to have once reprimanded the visiting raja (king) of Haripur and his wives when the latter observed the custom around him. One of the queens of the raja refused to part ways with veiling herself, in which the Guru responded: "if thou art not pleased with the Guru's face why halt thou come hither."
Amar Das met the Mughal Emperor Akbar. According to the Sikh legend, he neither received Akbar nor was Akbar directly ushered to him, rather the Guru suggested that Akbar like everyone sit on the floor and eat in the langar with everyone before their first meeting. Akbar, who sought to encourage tolerance and acceptance across religious lines, readily accepted the suggestion. After the conclusion of the Langar, Akbar sat in the congregation with the rest of the sangat and asked the Guru a question. The Sikh hagiographies called janam-sakhis mention that Guru Amar Das persuaded Akbar to repeal the tax on Hindu pilgrims going to Haridwar.
Rituals in Sikhism: wedding, festivals, funeral
Amar Das believed that a successful marriage was one in which the souls of the husband and wife became one metaphorically:
"They are not husband and wife who sit together. Rather are they wife and husband who have one sprit in two bodies"— Guru Amar Das, translation from Indian Feminism: Class, Gender & Identity in Medieval Ages (2016) by Rukhsana Iftikhar
The Anand hymn is sung, in contemporary times, not only during Sikh weddings but also at major celebrations. Parts of the "Anand hymn" are recited in Sikh temples (Gurdwara) every evening, at the naming of a Sikh baby, as well as during a Sikh funeral. It is a section of the Anand Sahib composition of Guru Amar Das, printed on pages 917 to 922 of the Adi Granth and set to the "Ramkali" raga.
Guru Amar Das's entire Anand Sahib composition is a linguistic mix of Panjabi and Hindi languages, reflecting Guru Amar Das' upbringing and background. The hymn celebrates the freedom from suffering and anxiety, the union of the soul with the divine, describing a devotee's bliss achieved through the Guru with inner devotion and by repeating the Name of the Creator. The hymn states in stanza 19 that the Vedas teach "the Name is supreme", in stanza 27 that Smriti and Shastra discuss the good and the bad but are unreal because they lack a Guru and that it is the grace of the Guru which awakens the heart and the devotion to the Name. The hymn celebrates the life of a householder and constant inner devotion to the One, ending each stanza with the characteristic "says Nanak".
Guru Amar Das is also credited in the Sikh tradition to have encouraged building of temples and places where Sikhs could gather together on festivals such as Maghi, Diwali and Vaisakhi. He required his disciples to gather together for prayers and communal celebrations in autumn for Diwali and in spring for Vaisakhi, both post harvest ancient festivals of India.
Founding of Goindwal and construction of the Baoli Sahib
Guru Amar Das was responsible for establishing a new centre of Sikh authority at Goindwal and erecting a stepwell known as Baoli Sahib at the location. The foresight of the Guru building a headquarters at the central location of Goindwal in the Punjab on the bank of the Beas River, being intersected by the three major cultural regions of the area (Majha, Malwa, and Doaba), may have facilitated the fast-spread of Sikhism throughout the three main regions of Punjab. The Baoli Sahib was the first truly Sikh pilgrimage site and it helped attract new prospective members to the faith.
Site of the Golden Temple
Guru Amar Das selected the site in Amritsar village for a special temple, that Guru Ram Das began building, Guru Arjan completed and inaugurated, and the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh gilded. This temple has evolved into the contemporary "Harimandir Sahib", or the temple of Hari (God), also known as the Golden Temple. It is the most sacred pilgrimage site in Sikhism.
Scholars such as Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech and William McLeod state that Guru Amar Das was influential in introducing "distinctive features, pilgrimages, festivals, temples and rituals" that ever since his time have been an integral part of Sikhism. He was responsible for solidifying the dates of Vaisakhi and Diwali as biannual affairs where Sikhs could gather together and meet directly with their guru.
Amar Das is also remembered as the innovator who began the collection of hymns now known as Goindwal Pothi or Mohan Pothi, the precursor to what became the Adi Granth – the first edition of Sikh scripture – under the fifth Sikh Master, which finally emerged as the Guru Granth Sahib under the tenth Sikh Master. The nearly 900 hymns composed by Guru Amar Das constitute the third largest part, or about 15%, of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Choosing a successor
Amar Das had four people in mind that would succeed him as the next Guru:
- Ramu, his son-in-law[note 3]
- Jetha, his son-in-law[note 4]
- Mohan, his elder son
- Mohri, his younger son
Shortly before his death, it is recorded in Ramkali Sadu (composed by his great-grandson, Baba Sundar), that he called upon all of his familial relatives to acknowledge the new Guru, Ram Das, and personally placed the sandal paste on Bhai Jetha's forehead to anoint him as his successor. He died in 1574, in Goindwal Sahib, and like other Sikh Gurus he was cremated, with the "flowers" (remaining bones and ash after the cremation) immersed into harisar (flowing waters).
In popular culture
Guru Amar Das, painting from ca.1800–1810.
Guru Amar Das miniature painting.
- Harish C. Jain believes attributing the names of 'Sullakhani' and 'Lakhmi Devi' as his mother's names is an error.
- Mohri's name is alternatively spelt as 'Mohari'.
- Also known as Bhai Rama, he was married to his elder daughter, Dani.
- He was married to his younger daughter, Bhani.
- Kushwant Singh. "Amar Das, Guru (1479-1574)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjab University Patiala. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- "BBC – Religions – Sikhism: Guru Angad Dev".
- Ikeda, Atsushi (September 2019). "Cultural Negotiation in Early Sikh Imagery: Portraiture of the Sikh Gurus to 1849" (PDF). Sikh Research Journal. 4 (1): 33.
Guru Amar Das (1479–1574) is the third Guru and was inaugurated in 1552 at the age of 73.
- Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
- William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4.
- Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4411-0231-7.
- Charles E. Farhadian (2015). Introducing World Religions. Baker Academic. p. 342. ISBN 978-1-4412-4650-9.
- Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
- Anindita N. Balslev (2014). On World Religions: Diversity, Not Dissension. SAGE Publications. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-93-5150-174-9.
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- Jain, Harish C. (2003). The Making of Punjab. Unistar Books. pp. 272–273.
- Singh, Pashaura; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2023). "Guru Amar Das (1479–1574)". The Sikh World. Routledge Worlds. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780429848384.
A major institutional development took place during the reign of Guru Amar Das, who introduced fresh measures to provide greater cohesion and unity to the ever- growing Panth. He founded the town of Goindval on the bank of the Beas River, where the three regions of the Punjab (Majha, Doaba, and Malwa) meet. This may account for the spread of the Sikh Panth's influence in all three regions of the Punjab. Guru Amar Das created the institution of manjis ("Cots," seats of authority) for attracting new followers, each headed by men and women of good standing in the Sikh community and helping in the dissemination of the Guru's word in the distant communities. He expanded the scriptural tradition by preparing the Goindval Pothis, set the biannual festivals of Visakhi and Divali that provided an opportunity for the growing community to get together and meet the Guru, and established the first pilgrimage center (baoli) for socialization and attracting new followers. Under his patronage, his son-in-law Ram Das received training in the musical traditions of North India, and his nephew Gurdas Bhalla received his early education in Punjabi, Braj, and Persian languages, including Hindu and Muslim literary traditions at Sultanpur Lodhi. All these radical measures reflect the expansionist policy of the third Guru. In fact, this early move towards the establishment of a more comprehensive administrative system speaks of the rapidity with which the spiritual appeal of Guru Nanak was gaining ground and of the practicality of those to whom the tradition had been entrusted in dealing with this broadening appeal.
- Gopal Singh (1971). The Religion of the Sikhs. Allied. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-210-22296-6.
Amar Das was a farmer-trader and a strong Vaishnavite before he met Guru Angad at a fairly advanced age.
- Hari Ram Gupta. History Of The Sikhs Vol. 1 The Sikh Guru's 1469-1708. p. 129.
- Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2004). Sikhism. Infobase Publishing. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-4381-1779-9.
- W. Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (2005). A Popular Dictionary of Sikhism: Sikh Religion and Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-135-79760-7.
- Singh, Gurbachan; Shankar, Sondeep (1998). The Sikhs: Faith, Philosophy & Folk. Lustre Press. p. 26. ISBN 9788174360373.
- Kristen Haar; Sewa Singh Kalsi (2009). Sikhism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-1-4381-0647-2.
- Cole, W. Owen (2004). Understanding Sikhism. Understanding Faith. Dunedin Academic Press Ltd. ISBN 9781906716912.
Guru Amar Das appointed twenty-two manjis, women and men, whose primary function was to preach and teach the practice of Nam simran. This decision is indicative of the expansion of the still young movement and the consequent need to respond to the proliferation of sangats. In addition, some women, known as peerahs, were appointed to preach among women, Muslims in particular. The appointment of manjis and peerahs may be taken as a sign that the still young Panth was expanding steadily, and possibly spectacularly, in the area where Punjabi was the major regional language. The assemblies were intended to wean Sikhs away from major Hindu events, possibly challenging them to decide which of the two paths they would follow. At first, the baoli sahib seems contrary to the teachings of Guru Nanak that pilgrimage and bathing at tiraths to remove ritual pollution, in which he did not believe, were futile. It must be explained in terms of the third Guru's recognition that there were already people joining the Panth who did not necessarily share the beliefs of its founder in the essential inwardness of spirituality, the realisation of liberation through Nam simran and not outward religious forms. Even though Guru Nanak's death lay only a generation in the past or less, and there were many of his early followers still living, it was necessary to adjust to the changing circumstances that Guru Amar Das faced. That he did so is a sign of wisdom.
- Pruthi, Raj K. (2004). Sikhism and Indian Civilization. Culture and civilization series (1st ed.). Discovery Publishing House. pp. 104–105. ISBN 9788171418794.
- Iftikhar, Rukhsana (2016). Indian Feminism: Class, Gender & Identity in Medieval Ages (1st ed.). Notion Press. ISBN 9789386073730.
Guru Amar Das was also against the custom of purdah. Once Raja of Haripur along with his wives visited the Guru place, the queen observed purdah, Guru objected and asked them to put their veils off. One of them did not agree to remove purdah the Guru remarked "if thou art not pleased with the Guru's face why hast thou come hither?" The effects of this was that the men, with whom it was usual in hard times to leave their females to the mercy of invader, (let they performed Jauhar), now they come forward as the defenders of their homes. Guru Amar Das started Pin [sic] system for the regeneration of the society, which was entrusted with the task of educating women in religious and social norms. The whole organization was handled by intellectual women; Bibi Bhani, Bibi Dabi [sic] and Bibi Pal (these women were devotees of Guru Amar Das and helped him in educating women) were those who contributed in this system.
- Iftikhar, Rukhsana (2016). Indian Feminism: Class, Gender & Identity in Medieval Ages (1st ed.). Notion Press. ISBN 9789386073730.
- William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4.
- William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4.
- Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2005). The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-Memory of Sikh Identity. State University of New York Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7914-6583-7., Quote: "The name of the wedding ceremony, anand karaj (anand = bliss, karaj = event), is derived from Guru Amar Das's rapturous hymn Anand (bliss)."
- Rosemary Skinner Keller; Rosemary Radford Ruether; Marie Cantlon (2006). Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Indiana University Press. p. 700. ISBN 0-253-34687-8.
- Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
- Christopher Shackle; Arvind Mandair (2013). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. Routledge. pp. 89–91, for a translation of his complete Anand hymn see pp. 92–101. ISBN 978-1-136-45108-9.
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- Amar Das: Sikh Guru, Encyclopædia Britannica
- Roshen Dalal (2010). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-14-341517-6.
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- C. Christine Fair; Sumit Ganguly (2008). Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency Operations in Sacred Spaces. Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-19-971189-5.
- Pashaura Singh (1996), Scriptural Adaptation in the Adi Granth, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Oxford University Press, Volume 64, Number 2 (Summer 1996), pages 337–357
- Singh, Prithi Pal (2006). The History of Sikh Gurus. Lotus Press. p. 50. ISBN 9788183820752.
- Urubshurow, Victoria Kennick (2009). Introducing World Religions. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books. p. 417. ISBN 9780980163308.
- Jakobsh, Doris R. (2003). Relocating Gender in Sikh History: Transformation, Meaning and Identity. Oxford India paperbacks. Oxford University Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9780195663150.
- Chauhan, G.S. (2006). "Chapter 17: Baba Sunder ji". Bani of Bhagats. Hemkunt Press. p. 134. ISBN 9788170103561.
- "GURU AMARDAS | Films Division". filmsdivision.org. Retrieved 12 June 2021.