The Fifth Guru - Guru Arjan Dev ji
(1581 - 1606)
Ram Das Ji & Bibi Bhani
April 15, 1563, Goindval
Prithi Chand and Mahadev
Guru Har Gobind
Joti Jot :
May 30, 1606, Lahore
2218 Shabads, 30 Raags
• Guru Arjan Dev Ji,
15 April 1563– 30 May 1606 is the Fifth of the Ten Sikh Gurus. He was born in Goindval, Punjab, India, the youngest son of Guru Ram Das Sahib Ji and Bibi Bhani Ji, the daughter of Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji. He became Guru Ji of the Sikhs on 1 September 1581 after the death of His Father Guru Ram Das Sahib Ji. Guru Arjan Dev Ji died in Lahore, Punjab, (now in Pakistan). Before His death, He passed the light of Guruship to His Son Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji as the next Guru Ji of the Sikhs.
Guru Arjun Dev Ji lived as the Guru Ji of Sikhism for a quarter of a century and accomplished much during his service to humanity. Guru Arjan completed the construction of Amritsar and founded other cities such as Taran Taran and Kartarpur. He constructed a Baoli at Lahore. The most important work of Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the compilation of Adi Granth. He collected all the work of the first four Gurus and dictated it in the form of verses in 1604. It is, perhaps, the only script which still exists in the form first published (a hand-written manuscript) by the Guru. The integrity of the original writings within the Adi Granth is especially noted.
Baoli at lahor
Guru Arjun 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, the Guru ka Langars (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. The land that Amritsar is built upon is believed to be a jagir (estates gifted to individuals under the Mughal system which included one or more villages and often a portion of the crops produced on the land) given as a gift by the Emperor Akbar, who was impressed by the practice, after sharing a meal in the Guru's communal kitchen, seated on the floor among commoners.
Guru Arjun ji, like all the Sikh Gurus, clearly embodies the light of Guru Nanak ji through teachings and acts. Guru Arjun clearly knew how the importance of Guru Nanak's message is for every state of life and to every condition of society. Continuing the efforts of Guru Ramdass, Guru Arjun established Amritsar as a primary site for all Sikhs, and people on earth, as a center for great spiritual experience. The city became populous and a great place of pilgrimage for Sikhs.
Compiling the Adi Granth, Guru Arjun gave Sikhs an example of religious and moral
Guru Arjan Dev Ji
conduct, as well as a rich body of sacred poetry of high spiritual esteem. 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. Guru Arjun ji became famous among his pious devotees and his biographers dwell on the number of Saints and Holy men who were edified by his instructions. He was equally headed by men in high positions. During his time, the teaching and philosophy of 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 Arjun ji 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. Guru Arjun was caring and loving, he was also willing to give to the poor.
Jahangir’s memoirs state that Arjun was handed over to Murtaza Khan in Lahore, so that the official could execute him. Jahangir did so because of Arjan’s support for Khusrau, and does not describe ordering any torture of the Guru. This suggests none was ordered, since Jahangir earlier describes the torture and execution of two other rebels in detail. Nor does it fit with Jahangir’s general policy of religious tolerance, with one contemporary English observer remarking that “here every man has liberty to profess his own religion freely”, and which saw state funding of other religions and numerous non-Muslims favoured by Jahangir.
Set against this was Jahangir’s stated desire to convert Arjan to Islam, though given that he later warned other Muslims about trying to force Islam on people, probably thought in terms of the Guru converting voluntarily. 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” is instructive, though it appears that Jahangir only took action against religious figures he saw as threats to the state. This included the Naqshbandi Muslim Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, who Jahangir viewed as an extremist (and who was a noted enemy of Guru Arjan), and so had him imprisoned in Gwalior fort. Nor was Jahangir likely to be personally familiar with the Adi Granth, since he labelled the Guru as a Hindu. First Turning Point in Sikh History
If Jahangir’s memoir was the only contemporary source, the picture would still be relatively clear. We would know why Guru Arjan died and who ordered his death, if not the exact manner of it. However, other contemporary and near-contemporary sources, especially the Sikh accounts, do not support Jahangir’s version of events. Professor J.S. Grewal notes that Sikh sources from the seventeenth and eighteenth century contain contradictory reports of Guru Arjan’s
death. Guru Gobind Singh’s memoir, the Bichitra Natak, mentions Guru Arjun only once, to record that “when Arjan departed this life for the divine abode, [the Guru] assumed the form of Hargobind.”
In contrast he and other Sikh sources extensively discussed Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom. Bhai Gurdas, a contemporary of Arjan and noted Sikh chronicler, recorded his death, but whether or not his account shows the Guru was tortured rests on the translation of ‘bhir’ (and whether it is translated as ‘distress/hardship’ or ‘torture’). In the 1740s, Chaupa Singh, who was close to Guru Gobind Singh, placed the blame on Chandu Shah, a Hindu official in Lahore, who Chaupa Singh accused of having the Guru arrested and executed after he turned down Chandu Shah’s offer of marriage between Chandu’s daughter and Hargobind.
A contemporary Jesuit account, written in 1606 by Father Jerome Xavier, who was in Lahore at the time, adds weight to aspects to all these accounts. Xavier 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. The Guru however refused to let a fine be paid for him and even refused when a long time friend of his Sai Mian Mir tried interceding on his behalf, Jahangir tortured Arjan in the hopes of extracting the money, but the Guru refused to give in and so died. The other near-contemporary non-Sikh source, a 1640s chronicle probably written by a Parsi, supports this view.
First Turning Point in Sikh History
Noted Sikh historian Dr. Harjinder Singh Majhail (2010: pp. 144–146) writes, "The martyrdom of the fifth Guru is a first turning point in Sikh history. It created circumstances, which gave a militant colour to a
Sitting On Hot Tavi
spiritually coloured, otherworldly people". "The Sikhs for whom their Satguru i.e. True Master was dearer than anything else in the world, were never ready to accept their True master's martyrdom. What pained them more was that their Master was mercilessly tortured to death. The fifth Guru was made to sit on big hot ferrous bread-baking plates and the burning sands from a parcher's furnace were poured on his bare body. After such inhuman tortures, the Guru was taken to the river 'Ravi' for a bath where he was said to have mysteriously disappeared into the 'Ravi'.
All this was too much for the Sikhs. The blood-curdling tortures meted out on their beloved Guru made their blood boil. They sat brooding waiting for vengeance".
"The arrival of Guru Hargobind Sahib, the Sixth Guru of the Sikhs, on the religio-socio-political scene of India was a consequential climacteric which for the first time transformed the Sikh character and the Sikh ethos from purely spiritual to the martial. It was for the first time that the Sikhs took to sword - not just one sword but the two: 'miri' symbolizing temporal power and 'piri' symbolizing spiritual power. By doing so, the Guru mingled martial arts with religiosity, temporal with the spiritual, and 'bhakti' (devotion) with 'shakti' (martial power)". The martyrdom of the fifth Guru turned the spiritual Sikhs into a community of warriors which was to lay the foundation of Khalsa rule in Punjab in the times to come.
Mughal accounts regarding the execution of Guru Arjun Dev
Troubles between the Mughal authorities and the Sikh community began in the year 1573, after Jahangir the rightful heir of Akbar, subdued a ferocious rebellion put up by his own son Khusrau Mirza, who had gathered a powerful army consisting of 3000 warriors and relentlessly besieged the city of Lahore and Guru Arjun Dev had clearly given assistance and support to the unpopular renegades within the Imperial ranks.
After subduing and executing nearly 2000 members of the rebellion and blinding the renegade Khusrau Mirza the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his advisors believed that the Sikhs evidently intended to destabilize the Mughal Empire. Guru Arjun Dev was found guilty of supporting an unjust rebellion and thus executed by imperial decree.