Guru Amar Das Ji - Guru from (1552 to 1574)
Guru Amar Das Sahib Ji - 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 the footsteps of Sri Guru Angad Dev Sahib ji,
Guru Amar Das Sahib's contribution to the people:
- A total of 907 revelatory hymns, that are incorporated in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
- 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.
How did Guru ji become a Sikh?
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.
Bhai Amar Das Sahib Ji fetching water for Guru Angad Dev Sahib 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.
Guru Amar Das, an illustration from Max Arthur Macauliffe's book, The Sikh Religion 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.
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.
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.