Paying Obeisance to SRI GURU HAR RAI SAHIB on His 386th birth anniversary
Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib (1630-1661) the seventh Guru of the Sikh faith was born on January 16, 1630 at Kiratpur Sahib in District Ropar of Punjab. He was the son of Baba Gurditta Ji (1613-1638) and grandson of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib (1595-1644) the sixth Guru of the Sikh faith. This year his birth anniversary is being celebrated on January 31st and February 1st all over the world.
In 1640, he was married to Bibi Sulakkhni Ji, daughter of Bhai Daya Ram Ji of Anupshahr in District Bulandshahr of Uttar Pradesh. From very early childhood he was deeply religious minded and was gentle by nature. He was Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib’s favourite grandchild.
An oft quoted incident of his childhood is that one day while he was returning from his riding exercise, on the way he saw Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib. On seeing him he hurriedly got off his horse to show respect to him. In this hurried movement, his robe was caught in a bush, as a result of which some of the flowers got plucked and fell down. He felt so much disturbed over this incident that he sat down on the spot and started weeping bitterly. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib said “wear your robe by all means, but be careful as you walk”. He advised him to be careful in future and said that, “It behoves God’s servants to be tender to all things”. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, before leaving for his heavenly abode on 3 March, 1644 at Kiratpur Sahib nominated Har Rai Sahib as his successor.
After assuming Guruship, Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib established the following three important preaching missions called bakhshishes for the spread of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message in different parts of India as well as outside India. Out of these three missions : (I) the first one was under Bhagvan Gir, renamed as Bhagat Bhagvan, who established missionary centers in eastern India (ii) the second one was that of Sangatia renamed as Bhai Pheru who preached in Rajasthan and southern part of Punjab and (iii) the third one was under Bhai Gonda who preached in Kabul in Afghanistan. In addition to these he deputed (I) Bhai Nattha to preach in Dhaka (which is now capital of Bangla Desh) (ii) Bhai Jodh to preach in Multan which now falls in Pakistan and (iii) Suthre Shah to preach in Delhi. Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib deputed two of his followers to cover the Malva region of Punjab whose descendents later ruled Bagarian and Kaithal respectively. Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib confirmed the blessings given by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib to a poor boy named Phul who had been brought by his fraternal uncle Kala because this boy had no sources of livelihood. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib had blessed the little child by saying that in times to come his successors will be rulers of Patiala, Nabha and Jind states of Punjab. Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib confirmed this blessing and therefore the successors of Baba Phul ruled in these states until recent years. A similar blessing was bestowed on Buddha Singh, an ancestor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. .
Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib made it a point to cover those parts of Malva region of Punjab which had not been covered by his predecessor Gurus. Thus, he himself travelled extensively in this region although he kept his permanent seat at Kiratpur Sahib.
During his preaching tours, in addition to (I) Galotian Khurd in Sialkot district which now falls in Pakistan (ii) Srinagar, Akhnur, Jammu and Mota Tanda (native village of Makhan Shah Lubana Ji) in Jammu and Kashmir and (iii) Thanesar in Haryana he visited Phagwara, Chakk Prema and Bambeli now in Kapurthala district; Kartarpur, Pharala and Hakimpur in Jallandhar district; Bajraur, Lahili Kalan and Bhungarni in Hoshiarpur district; Kiratpur Sahib, Daulowal, Bunga and Gharuan in Ropar district; Lambe in district S.A.S. Nagar, Gahal in Sangrur district and Amargarh and Bhokhri in Bathinda district of Punjab. He maintained the stately style of his grandfather. He had at his command 2200 armed followers. But during the period of his Guruship no threats were given by the ruling group and hence he was not involved in any warfare. .
He did not compose any hymns of his own. He spent the mornings explaining the preachings of his predecessor Gurus. His daily routine included getting up early in the morning, saying prayers, recitation of the hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib and explaining the Sikh doctrine to the sangat. This was followed by kirtan i.e. singing of the hymns by the musicians to the tune of instruments. It may be added here that in Sikhism kirtan is considered the highest form of expression of adoration of God and is also considered as the most efficacious means of linking the soul to the Divine power. The evening programme included katha i.e. explaining the Sikh history and recitation of the paath of Rahuras Sahib which was followed by ardas.
He maintained a simple style of living and earned his livelihood by doing labour with his own hands. In his preachings also he emphasized the importance of working with one’s own hands and sharing one’s possessions with those in need. He further strengthened the institution of langar i.e. community kitchen wherein people from all strata of life and from all castes sit on the floor in queues and partake off food. He himself ate all his meals in the community kitchen.
He took care of sick and down trodden persons and especially the leprosy stricken persons. His predecessor Sikh Gurus had also given special attention to lepers. Sri Gur Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru of the Sikh faith had spent a night in a leper’s hut at Goindval Sahib, treated him and cured him. Henceforth, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji treated several lepers. Sri Guru Amar Das Ji, the third Guru of the Sikh faith had cured a leper named Morari in village Khai of District Lahore (now in Pakistan) and henceforth treated many lepers. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of Sikh faith had cured a leper of village Muradapur in Tehsil and District Tarn Taran Sahib, who because of his own wishes was being taken by his sons to be drowned in river Beas. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji took charge of this leper and treated him with his own hands. After curing this leper, he established a Lepers’ Home in Tarn Taran Sahib, where thousands of lepers have been cured. Following the footsteps of his predecessor Gurus, Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib also treated lepers and cured them. .
In May 1658, when Aurangzeb was struggling hard to acquire the Mughal throne, his brother Dara Shukoh entered Punjab to seek the blessings of Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib who at the time was at Goindval Sahib in District Tarn Taran. Dara Shukoh was an admirer of Sain Mian Mir, a Muslim Sufi saint who is respected by the Sikhs for having laid the foundation stone of Sri Haimandar Sahib, Amritsar. Earlier, Dara Shukoh had been cured of a serious ailment through some rare medicine sent by Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib. According to Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib deployed his own troops at the ferry to delay Aurangzeb's army which was closely pursuing Dara Shukoh. Some courtiers of Aurangzeb incited him that Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib was himself a rebel and had helped Dara Shukoh against him. The courtiers also told Aurangzeb that in the Sikh scriptures there were some versus which were derogatory to Islam. Aurangzeb asked Raja Jai Singh of Amber to have Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib brought to Delhi. When the royal summons were presented to him he was astonished and as reported by Bhai Santokh Singh in Sri Gur Partap Suraj Granth remarked that he ruled over no territory, he owed no taxes to the king, nor did he want anything from the king, also there was no connection of teacher and disciple between him and the king. Then what was the reason for sending the summons, he asked. Instead of going himself to Delhi he sent his elder son, Ram Rai to Delhi along with Diwan Dargah Mall as an escort. As reported by Piara Singh Padam and Giani Garja Singh in Guru Kian Sakhian he instructed his son to (I) answer all questions of the Emperor franky without any hesitation and (ii) read Sri Guru Granth Sahib with deep attention on the way.
Gurdas Ji the great grandson of Bhai Bahilo Ji was asked to accompany Ram Rai with a copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. When Ram Rai appeared before Aurangzeb to please him he misread some lines from the Holy Granth. Because of this, Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib anathematized him and he was debarred from presence before him. Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib decided not to pass on the ‘Light’ to Ram Rai and chose his younger son Har Krishan Ji as his successor.
Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib celebrated Baisakhi of 1660 in Sialkot (now in Pakistan) in the home of Nand Lal Puri Ji grandfather of Haqiqat Rai Ji (who was martyred as per the orders of Governor of Lahore on January 29, 1742). During his travels he was accompanied by Makkhan Shah Lubana Ji and Aru Ram Ji, the father of Kirpa Ram Ji who later led the jatha of Kashmiri Pandits to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadhur Sahib to save them from persecution by the Mughal emperor.
Because his elder son Ram Rai had misread the lines of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and had earned his displeasure Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib, before leaving for his heavenly abode on October 6, 1661 at Kiratpur Sahib nominated his younger son Har Krishan Ji as his succerssor.
Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib will always be remembered for being peace loving and caretaker of the poor and sick people. A painting of Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib which is part of the collections in the Department of Archaeology Lahore, Pakistan shows Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib giving alms to the poor.
*Dr. Amrit Kaur, Retd. Professor, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab email: firstname.lastname@example.org