Guru Ram Das

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Guru Ram Das
ਗੁਰੂ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ
Guru Ram Das
Opaque watercolour on paper c 1800
Government Museum, Chandigarh
Born Bhai Jetha
24 September 1534 (1534-09-24)
Chuna Mandi, Lahore, Punjab, Mughal Empire (Present day Pakistan)
Died September 1, 1581 (1581-10) (aged 46)
Goindval, Mughal Empire (Present day India)
Other names The Fourth Master
Occupation Guru
Years active 1574–1581
Known for founder of Amritsar city[1]
Predecessor Guru Amar Das
Successor Guru Arjan
Spouse(s) Bibi Bhani
Children Baba Prithi Chand, Baba Mahan Dev, and Guru Arjan
Parent(s) Hari Das and Mata Anup Devi

Guru Ram Das ([ɡʊru ɾɑm dɑs]; 1534–1581) was the fourth of the ten Gurus of Sikhism.[1][2] He was born on 24 September 1534 in a poor Hindu family based in Lahore, part of now Pakistan.[2][3] His birth name was Jetha, he was orphaned at age 7, and thereafter grew up with his maternal grandmother in a village.[2]

At age 12, Bhai Jetha and his grandmother moved to Goindval, where they met Guru Angad.[2] The boy thereafter accepted Guru Angad as mentor and served him. The daughter of Guru Angad married Bhai Jetha, and he thus became part of Guru Angad's family. As with the first two Gurus of Sikhism, Guru Amar Das instead of choosing his own sons, chose him as his successor and renamed him as Ram Das or "servant or slave of god (Rama)".[2][3][4]

Ram Das became the Guru of Sikhism in 1574 and served as the Sikh leader until his death in 1581.[5] He faced hostilities from the sons of Guru Amar Das, shifted his official base to lands identified by Guru Amar Das as Guru-ka-Chak.[2] This newly founded town was eponymous Ramdaspur, later to evolve and get renamed as Amritsar – the holiest city of Sikhism.[6][7] He is also remembered in the Sikh tradition for expanding the manji organization for clerical appointments and donation collections to theologically and economically support the Sikh movement.[2] He appointed his own son as his successor, and unlike the first four Gurus who were not related through descent, the fifth through tenth Sikh Gurus were the direct descendants of Guru Ram Das.[7][8]

Biography[edit]

His father was Hari Das and his mother Anup Devi (Daya Kaur), a Sodhi Khatri caste family. He married Bibi Bhani, the younger daughter of Guru Amar Das. They had three sons: Prithi Chand, Mahadev and Guru Arjan.[2]

Death and succession[edit]

Guru Ram Das died on 1 September 1581, in the city of Amritsar, Punjab.

Of his three sons, Guru Ram Das chose Arjan, the youngest, to succeed him as the fifth Sikh Guru. The choice of successor, as throughout most of the history of Sikh Guru successions, led to disputes and internal divisions among the Sikhs.[7] The elder son of Guru Ram Das named Prithi Chand is remembered in the Sikh tradition as vehemently opposing Guru Arjan, creating a faction Sikh community which the Sikhs following Guru Arjan called as Minas (literally, "scoundrels"), and is alleged to have attempted to assassinate young Hargobind.[9][10] However, alternate competing texts written by the Prithi Chand led Sikh faction offer a different story, contradict this explanation on Hargobind's life, and present the elder son of Guru Ram Das as devoted to his younger brother Guru Arjan. The competing texts do acknowledge disagreement and describe Prithi Chand as having become the Sahib Guru after the martyrdom of Guru Arjan and disputing the succession of Guru Hargobind, the grandson of Guru Ram Das.[11]

Influence[edit]

Amritsar[edit]

Guru Ram Das is credited with founding the holy city of Amritsar in the Sikh tradition.[6][7] Two versions of stories exist regarding the land where Guru Ram Das settled. In one based on a Gazetteer record, the land was purchased with Sikh donations, for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. In another version, Emperor Akbar is stated to have donated the land to the wife of Guru Ram Das.[3][12]

According to the Sikh historical records, the site was chosen by Guru Amar Das and called Guru Da Chakk, after he had asked Ram Das to find land to start a new town with a man made pool as its central point.[3][13][14] After his coronation in 1574, and the hostile opposition he faced from the sons of Guru Amar Das,[2] Guru Ram Das founded the town named after him as "Ramdaspur". He started by completing the pool, and building his new official Guru centre and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him.[3] The town expanded during the time of Guru Arjan financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the pool area grew into a temple complex after his son built the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, and installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604.[7]

The construction activity between 1574 and 1604 is described in Mahima Prakash Vartak, a semi-historical Sikh hagiography text likely composed in 1741, and the earliest known document dealing with the lives of all the ten Gurus.[15]

Scripture hymns[edit]

Guru Ram Das composed 638 hymns, or about ten percent of hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib. He was a celebrated poet, and composed his work in 30 ancient ragas of Indian classical music.[16]

These cover a range of topics:

One who calls himself to be a disciple of the Guru should rise before dawn and meditate on the Lord's Name. During the early hours, he should rise and bathe, cleansing his soul in a tank of nectar [water], while he repeats the Name the Guru has spoken to him. By this procedure he truly washes away the sins of his soul. – GGS 305 (partial)

The Name of God fills my heart with joy. My great fortune is to meditate on God's name. The miracle of God's name is attained through the perfect Guru, but only a rare soul walks in the light of the Guru's wisdom. – GGS 94 (partial)

O man! The poison of pride is killing you, blinding you to God. Your body, the colour of gold, has been scarred and discoloured by selfishness. Illusions of gradeur turn black, but the ego-maniac is attached to them. – GGS 776 (partial)

— Guru Granth Sahib, Translated by G. S. Mansukhani[3]

Guru's Bani is also part of Nanakshahi calendar and Kirtan Sohila, the daily prayers of Sikhs.[citation needed] His compositions continue to be sung daily in Harimandir Sahib (Golden temple) of Sikhism.[16]

Wedding hymn[edit]

The laavan verses of Guru Ram Das are recited with clockwise circumambulation in a Sikh wedding.

Guru Ram Das, along with Guru Amar Das, are credited with various parts of the Anand and Laavan composition in Suhi mode. It is a part of the ritual of four clockwise circumambulation of the Sikh scripture by the bride and groom to solemnize the marriage in Sikh tradition.[16][17] This was intermittently used, and its use lapsed in late 18th century. However, sometime in 19th or 20th century by conflicting accounts, the composition of Guru Ram Das came back in use along with Anand Karaj ceremony, replacing the Hindu ritual of circumambulation around the fire. The composition of Guru Ram Das emerged to be one of the basis of British colonial era Anand Marriage Act of 1909.[17]

The wedding hymn was composed by Guru Ram Das for his own daughter's wedding. The first stanza of the Laavan hymn by Guru Ram Das refers to the duties of the householder's life to accept the Guru's word as guide, remember the Divine Name. The second verse and circle reminds the singular One is encountered everywhere and in the depths of the self. The third speaks of the Divine Love. The fourth reminds that the union of the two is the union of the individual with the Infinite.[18]

Masand system[edit]

While Guru Amar Das introduced the manji system of religious organization, Guru Ram Das extended it with adding the masand institution. The masand were Sikh community leaders who lived far from the Guru, but acted to lead the distant congregations,their mutual interactions and collect revenue for Sikh activities and temple building.[2][19] This institutional organization famously helped grow Sikhism in the decades that followed, but became infamous in the era of later Gurus, for its corruption and its misuse in financing rival Sikh movements in times of succession disputes.[19][20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b William Owen Cole; Piara Singh Sambhi (1995). The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-1-898723-13-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 38–40. ISBN 978-1-4411-5366-1. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f G.S. Mansukhani. "Ram Das, Guru (1534-1581)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjab University Patiala. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  4. ^ Shakti Pawha Kaur Khalsa (1998). Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power. Penguin. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-399-52420-2. 
  5. ^ Arvind-pal Singh Mandair (2013). Religion and the Specter of the West: Sikhism, India, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Translation. Columbia University Press. pp. 251–252. ISBN 978-0-231-51980-9. 
  6. ^ a b W.H. McLeod (1990). Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. University of Chicago Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0-226-56085-4. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Christopher Shackle; Arvind Mandair (2013). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. Routledge. pp. xv–xvi. ISBN 978-1-136-45101-0. 
  8. ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-8108-6344-6. 
  9. ^ Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1. 
  10. ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8108-6344-6. 
  11. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 171–172. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8. 
  12. ^ Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1. 
  13. ^ Pardeep Singh Arshi (1989). The Golden Temple: history, art, and architecture. Harman. pp. 5–7. ISBN 978-81-85151-25-0. 
  14. ^ Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1. 
  15. ^ W.H. McLeod (1990). Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. University of Chicago Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0-226-56085-4. 
  16. ^ a b c Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 399–400. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8. 
  17. ^ a b Louis E. Fenech; W. H. McLeod (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1. 
  18. ^ Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2011). Sikhism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-84885-321-8. 
  19. ^ a b Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8. 
  20. ^ Madanjit Kaur (2007). Guru Gobind Singh: Historical and Ideological Perspective. Unistar. pp. 251–252. ISBN 978-81-89899-55-4. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Guru Amar Das
Sikh Guru
1 September 1574 – 1 September 1581
Succeeded by
Guru Arjan