Guru Amar Das
Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰੂ ਅਮਰ ਦਾਸ) (Sunday 23 May 1479 – Thursday 16 September 1574), Nanak III, was the third of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism and became Guru on Saturday, 16 April 1552 at the age of 73, following in the footsteps of Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib ji, who left for his heavenly abode on 29 March 1552 aged 48.
Guru Amar Das ji was born in 1479, 10 years after the birth of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru and founder of the Sikh faith. Guru Ji was the eldest son of Sri Tej Bhan Ji, a farmer and trader, and Mata Lachmi Ji, a devoted mother. He was a shopkeeper and lived in a village called Basarke, near Amritsar. The third Sikh Guru was married to Mata Mansa Devi and they had four children – two sons named Bhai Mohan and Bhai Mohri, and two daughters named Bibi Dani Ji and Bibi Bhani Ji. Bibi Bhani later married Bhai Jetha who became the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das.
Guru Amar Das Sahib contributed the following to the people of the world:
A total of 907 revelatory hymns, that are incorporated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Gift of the prayer Anand Sahib, which is one of the Five Banis recited daily by devout Sikhs
All visitors (from any caste, creed, ranking, social status) to Gurdwaras were asked to first partake in Langar (a free communal meal) before seeing the Guru (First Pangat, then Sangat). When emperor Akbar visited the Guru, he too first sat as a commoner in the Langar, and then had a meeting with the Guru.
Further abolished the caste system
Guru ji lifted the status of women and gave them equality with men. He strictly prohibited practices such as Sati (the burning of the wife on her husband’s funeral pyre), Parda (veil to cover the face), and encouraged widow-remarriage
Established an administration system for management of the increasing size of the Sikh congregations, called Manjis
Established the city of Goindval on the banks of river Beas in 1552 A.D.
Before Guru Ji died at the age of 95, he nominated Guru Ram Das (Bhai Jetha) as the fourth Guru of the Sikhs.
It is recorded that before becoming a Sikh, Bhai Amardas Ji as he was known at the time, was a very religious Vaishanavite Hindu who spent most of his life performing all of the ritual pilgrimages and fasts of a devout Hindu. One day, Bhai Amardas Sahib Ji heard some hymns of Sri Guru Nanak Dev being sung by Bibi Amro Ji Ji, the daughter of Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib Ji Maharaj, the second Sikh Guru Sahib. Bibi Amro Ji was married to Bhai Sahib’s brother, Bhai Manak Chand Ji’ s son who was called Bhai Jasso Ji.
Bibi Amro Ji lived together with Bhai Sahib’s brother. It so happened that Bhai Sahib was at his brother’s nearby house when he heard the wonderful recitation of Gurbani by his niece-in-law. Bhai Sahib was so impressed and moved by these Shabads that he immediately decided to go to see Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib Ji at Khadur Sahib. It is recorded that this event took place when Bhai Sahib was 61 years old.
Bhai Sahib also had a younger brother called Bhai Ishar Das whose son Bhai Gurdas Ji, became a superb poet and scholar of comparative religions who would later become the scribe that was chosen by Guru Arjan Dev to pen the first edition of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj, [[the Adi Granth]].
In 1635, upon meeting Guru Angad Dev Sahib Ji, Bhai Sahib was so touched by the Guru’s message that he became a devout Sikh. Soon he became involved in Sewa (Service) to the Guru and the Community. Under the impact of the Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib Ji and the teachings of the Gurus, Bhai Amardas Ji became a devout Sikh. He adopted Guru Ji as his spiritual guide (Guru). Bhai Sahib Ji began to live at Khadur Sahib. He used to rise early in the morning, bring water from the Beas River for Guru ji’s bath, he would wash the Guru ji’s clothes and fetch wood from the Jungle for ‘Guru ka Langar’. He was so dedicated to Sewa and the Guru and had completely extinguished pride and was totally lost in this commitment that he was considered an old man who had no interest in life, he was dubbed Amru, and generally forsaken.
However, as a result of Bhai Sahib’s commitment to Sikhi principles, dedicated service and devotion to the Sikh cause, Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib Ji appointed Sri Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji as third Sri Guru Nanak Sahib in March 1552 at the age of 73. He established his headquarters at the newly built town of Goindwal Sahib, which Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib Ji had established.
ਗਰ ਅਮਰਦਾਸ ਜਿਨਹਹ ਸੇਵਿਅਉ ਤਿਨਹਹ ਦਖ ਦਰਿਦਰ ਪਰਹਰਿ ਪਰੈ ॥੩॥੧੭॥
Those who serve Guru Amar Daas – their pains and poverty are taken away, far away. ||3||17||
Soon large numbers of Sikhs started flocking to Goindwal to see the new Guru. Meanwhile, going against his father’s wishes, Datu one of Guru Angad’s sons proclaimed himself as Guru at Khadur following his father’s death. He was so jealous of Guru Amar Das that he, with a small group of his supporters, proceeded to Goindwal to confront the Guru. Upon seeing Guru Amar Das seated on a throne surrounded by his followers he said, “You were a mere menial servant of the house until yesterday; how dare you style yourself as the Master?”. At that point, Datu kicked the aged Guru Amardas ji so hard that he fell to the floor. Taking the seat of the Master he then proclaimed himself Guru to the assembly of Sikhs. The Sangat must have been shocked as this not only flew against Guru Angad’s wishes, but against centuries of respect that the people of India and the Punjab had for their elders, to kick the revered Guru was indeed – shocking.
Guru Amar Das, however, in utter humility, righted himself and caressed Datu’s foot saying, “I am old and my bones have grown very hard, I fear they have hurt your tender foot. ” After this Guru Amar Das left Goindwal that evening and returned to his native village of Basarke.
Bhai Amar Das becomes the third Sikh Guru
At Basarke, Guru Amar Das shut himself in a small house for solitary meditation. He had told no one where he was headed, but just in case someone tracked him down he attached a notice on the front door saying, “He who opens this door is no Sikh of mine, nor am I his Guru.” A delegation of faithful Sikhs led by Baba Buddha found the house and seeing the notice on the front door, finally chose to ‘go between the Guru’s words’, cutting a hole through a wall to reach their beloved Guru. Then Baba Buddha said to the Guru, “Guru Sahib, being a supreme yogi, we know you care for nothing in the world – neither fame, nor riches nor a following, but we cannot live without your guidance. Guru Angad has tied us to your apron, where should we go now if you do not show us the way?”
At the tearful emtreaty of the Sikhs, Guru Amar Das, overwhelmed by their devotion, returned to Goindwal where Datu, who had been unable to gather any followers of his own, had returned to Khadur Sahib.
At Goindwal, Guru Amar Das propagated the Sikh faith in a logical and planned manner. He himself visited and sent Sikh missionaries to different parts of India to spread Sikhism. He divided the Sikh Sangat area into 22 branches called Manjis and appointed a local devout Sikh preacher at each place. The preacher sat on a Manji (a cot) while the congregation all sat around the Manji or cot. Here are the initial 16 names of the people he appointed to preach Sikhism.
Bhai Allah Yaar
Bhai Gangu Shah
Bhai Mai Das
Bhai Manak Chand (Manji)
Bhai Raja Ram
Bhai Rang Das
Bhai Rang Shah
Bhai Sawan Mall
Bibi Sachan Sach
In Majha (Amritsar, Lahore, Sialkote)
Manak Chand Jhinwar (Water Carrier) at Variowal in Amritsar.
Sada ram, a Blacksmith near Amritsar.
Hindal at Jandiala near Amritsar.
Gangu Shah banker at Lahore.
Mutho-Murari, a devoted couple, at Chunian in Lahore Dist.
In Jalandhar Doab
Paro Julka at Jalandar.
Mahesh Dhir at Sultanpur Lodi.
Rang Shah at Moluphota.
In Kangra Hills
Sawan mal, Nephew of Guru Amar Das, at Haripur Guler.
Name not given, at Dharamsala.
In Kashmir Hills
Phirya at Mirpur.
In Malwa (Area of Patiala, Ludhiana, Bhatinda)
Kheira at Firozpur.
Mai Das Bairagi in charge of Ludhiana dist.
Mai Bhago at village Wayun, tehsil Kharar, dist. Rupar.
Mai Sewan at Village Gardnoh in Patiala District.
Sachna Shah in charge of Ambala distt.
Lalu in charge of some area in Sind.
Sending Bhai Gurdas to Agra
Guru Amar Das was impressed with Bhai Gurdas’ thorough knowledge of Hindi and Sanskrit and the Hindu scriptures. Following the tradition of sending out Masands across the country, Guru Amar Das deputed Bhai Gurdas to Agra to spread the gospel of Sikhism. Before leaving, Guru Amar Das prescribed the following routine for Sikhs:
“He who calls himself a Sikh of the True Guru, He must get up in the morning and say his prayers. He must rise in the early hours and bathe in the holy tank. He must meditate on God as advised by the Guru. And rid himself of the afflictions of sins and evil. As the day dawns, he should recite scriptures, and repeat God’s name in every activity. He to whom the Guru takes kindly is shown the path. Nanak! I seek the dust of the feet of the Guru’s Sikh who himself remembers God and makes others remember Him.” (Gauri)
Visit of Akbar
Guru Ji strengthened the tradition of ‘Guru ka Langar’ and made it compulsory for the visitor to the Guru saying that ‘Pehle Pangat Phir Sangat’ (first visit the Langar then go to the Guru). Once the emperor Akbar came to see Guru Sahib and he had to eat the coarse rice in the Langar before he could have an interview with Guru Sahib. He was too much impressed with this system that he expressed his desire to grant some royal property for ‘Guru ka Langar’, but Guru Sahib declined it with respect. Guru Amardas Sahib persuaded Akbar to waive off toll-tax (pilgrim’s tax) for non-Muslims while crossing Yamuna and Ganga, Akbar did so. Guru Amardas Sahib maintained cordial relations with emperor Akbar.
He preached against Sati and advocated the re-marrying of widows. He asked the women to discard ‘Purdah’ (veil). He introduced new birth, marriage and death ceremonies. Thus he raised the status of women and protected the rights of female infant who were killed without question as they were deemed to have no status. These teachings met stiff resistance from the Orthodox Hindus and Muslim fundamentalists. He fixed three Gurpurbs for Sikh celebrations: Dewali, Vaisakhi and Maghi. Visiting of Hindu pilgrimage centres and paying tributes to the Muslim places were prohibited.
When the Raja of Haripur came to see the Guru. Guru Amar Das insisted that he first partake a common meal from the community kitchen, called langar, irrespective of his caste. The Raja obliged and had an audience with the Guru. But one of his queens refused to lift the veil from her face, so Guru Amar Das refused to meet her. Guru Amar Das not only preached the equality of people irrespective of their caste but he also tried to foster the idea of women’s equality. He tried to liberate women from the practices of purdah (wearing a veil) as well as preaching strongly against the practice of sati (Hindu wife burning on her husband’s funeral pyre). Guru Amar Das also disapproved of a widow remaining unmarried for the rest of her life.
Guru Amardas Sahib constructed Baoli at Goindwal Sahib having eighty-four steps and made it a Sikh pilgrimage centre for the first time in the history of Sikhism. He reproduced more copies of the hymns of Guru Nanak Sahib and Guru Angad Sahib. He also composed 869 (according to some chronicles these were 709) verses (stanzas) including Anand Sahib, and then later on Guru Arjan (fifth Guru) made all the Shabads part of Guru Granth Sahib.
Baoli Sahib constructed by Guru Amar Das
Once during several days of rain while Guru Amar Das was riding by a wall which he saw was on the verge of falling he galloped his horse past the wall. The Sikhs questioned him saying; “O Master, you have instructed us, ‘fear not death, for it comes to all’ and ‘the Guru and the God-man are beyond the pale of birth and death’, why did you then gallop past the collapsing wall?” Guru Amar Das replied; “Our body is the embodiment of God’s light. It is through the human body that one can explore one’s limitless spiritual possibilities. Demi-gods envy the human form. One should not, therefore, play with it recklessly. One must submit to the Will of God, when one’s time is over, but not crave death, nor invite it without a sufficient and noble cause. It is self-surrender for the good of man that one should seek, not physical annihilation.”
Meeting Bhai Jetha
When it came time for the Guru to marry his younger daughter Bibi Bhani, he selected a pious and diligent young follower of his called Jetha from Lahore. Jetha had come to visit the Guru with a party of pilgrims from Lahore and had become so enchanted by the Guru’s teachings that he had decided to settle in Goindwal. Here he earned a living selling wheat and would regularly attend the services of Guru Amar Das in his spare time.
Guru Amar Das Sahib did not consider any one of his sons fit for Guruship and chose instead his son-in-law (Guru) Ram Das to succeed him. Certainly, it was practically a right step not as emotional, because Bibi Bhani and (Guru) Ram Das had true spirit of service and their keen understanding of the Sikh principles deserved this. This practice shows that Guruship could be transferred to anybody fit for the Sikh cause and not to the particular person who belonged to the same family or of other. Guru Amar Das Sahib at the ripe age of 95 passed away for heaven on Bhadon Sudi 14th, (1st Assu) Samvat 1631, (September 1, 1574) at Goindwal Sahib near District Amritsar, after giving the responsibility of Guruship to the Fourth Nanak, Guru Ramdas.
ਸੋਈ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਅਮਰ ਗੁਰ ਤੁਸਿ ਦੀਓ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ॥੬॥
Guru Amar Das was blessed with the treasure of the Naam, by the Creator Lord, in His Pleasure. ||6||
ਗਰ ਅਮਰਦਾਸ ਤਾਰਣ ਤਰਣ ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਪਾ ਸਰਣਿ ਤਅ ॥੨॥੧੬॥
Guru Amar Das is our Saving Grace, who carries us across; in lifetime after lifetime, I seek the Sanctuary of Your Feet. ||2||16||