Inder Jeet S. Bhatia ‘Prince’
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the 5th Nanak, was born on 15th April 1563 (an accepted birth date as per scholarly consensus) is Goindwal of distt. Tarntaran of present day Punjab. Guru Arjan Dev Ji was born to Guru Ramdas Ji, the 4th Sikh Guru and Bibi Bhani Ji. Now-a-days Gurudwara Chaubara Sahib stands as a memorial on the birth place of Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Tarn-Taran. Guru Ji had two elder brothers- Prithi Chand and Mahadev. Guru Ram Das Ji chose Arjan Dev to succeed him as the 5th Sikh guru despite the fact he was the youngest of all the 3 brothers. Mahadev, the middle brother chose the life of an ascetic.
However, Prithi Chand, the eldest brother of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, was not pleased with the appointment of Arjan Dev Ji as the next guru of the Sikhs. Prithi Chand wanted to inherit the Sikh guruship from his father, who instead favoured and appointed his younger 18 year old son Arjan Dev as the next Sikh guru.
Prithi Chand was embittered. He took a distinctly hostile view of his brother’s appointment. Prithi Chand, himself being a devotional poet, created a parallel scripture which included the hymns of earlier Gurus and his own his spiritual discourses started attracting large following and also the official support of Mughal empire. Prithi Chand, thus, started one of major sub-sect of early Sikhism. This sub-sect came to be labelled as the ‘Minas’ . These acts of Prithi Chand triggered Guru Arjan Dev Ji to formulate and release the official edition of the ‘Adi-Granth’ which came to be known as ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ in the later years.
The Golden Temple
One of the most iconic contributions of Guru Arjan Dev Ji is that Guru Ji was one who conceived of and began the construction of Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple in the holy city of Amritsar.
Guru Ji wanted Harmandir Sahib to stand for inclusivity, a place where everyone was welcome irrespective of his caste or creed. It is on these values that Guru Arjan Dev Ji designed the Golden Temple, which has four entries and exits denoting acceptance of the 4 Hindu castes and all religions.
The renowned Muslim Saint Mian Mir Ji of Lahore was invited by Guru Arjan Dev Ji to lay the foundation stone of the temple. Instead of making the temple a towering elevated monument, Guru ji decided to place it on a lower elevation as a symbolic gesture, so that one would feel humble upon entering the temple.
The Adi Granth
Guru Arjan Dev’s major contribution to the Sikhism is the compilation of the ‘Adi-Granth’ which was completed in 1604. The ‘Adi Granth’ is a compilation of the hymns composed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and 32 other Hindu and Muslims saints including more than 2000 hymns that Guru Arjan Dev Ji composed himself. The hymns that were included in the ‘Adi Granth’ were works of Sheikh Farid, Bhagat Kabir, Bhagat Ravi Das, Dhanna, Namdev, Jai Dev, Ramanand, Trilochan, Beni, Pipa and Surdas Ji. The ‘Adi Granth’ was installed in the ‘Golden Temple’ for the 1st time on Sept 1, 1604.
The same ‘Adi Granth’ was later declared as the ultimate ‘Gur Bani’ or ‘word of god by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh Guru who added 115 hymns composed by Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji in the 2nd rendition and the ‘Adi-Granth, became the ‘Guru Granth Sahib Ji’.
Guru Ji and The
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the 5th Nanak was a staunch advocate of tolerance, equality and pluralism. Some jealous elements, alarmed over growing popularity of Guru Ji and Sikhism, conspired against Guru Ji. They informed the then Mughal emperor Akbar that the holy book installed at Harmandir Sahib by Guru Arjan Dev Ji contains teachings that are against or hostile to Islam. Emperor Akbar ordered that a copy of ‘Adi-Granth’ be sent to him. However the emperor found nothing objectionable in the holy book except the message of Truth, Peace and Contemplation.
However, after the death of Akbar, his son Jehangir became the king. He was a fundamentalist who wanted to turn India into an Islamic State. Jehangir became jealous about the rapid increase in the popularity of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. There is another theory. There was an ongoing Mughal dynasty dispute between Jehangir and his son Khusrau, suspected of rebellion by Jahangir, wherein, Guru Ji, allegedly blessed Khusrau when he visited Guru Ji’s place while on the run from Mughal soldiers. Jehangir was outraged and furious.
Yet another version suggests that one Chandu Shah, a minister in Jehangir’s court, played key role in extreme torture and execution of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. It is said that Chandu Shah wanted to take revenge on Guru Arjan Dev Ji for not marrying his son Hargobind, to Chandu Shah’s daughter.
The Mughal ruler whose ears were poisoned against Guru Arjan Dev Ji, summoned Guru Ji to Lahore. Baseless allegations were levelled against Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
Guru Ji was asked to stop preaching his name of God. Guru Ji was also asked to delete some hymns from the holy ‘Adi Granth’ that were found offensive to Muslims and Hindus alike. Guru Ji was also imposed a fine of Rs two lakhs by emperor Jahangir. Guru Ji was also asked to embrace Islam. Guru ji Arjan Dev Ji was threatened of dire consequences in case he did not agree to expunge the so-called objectionable verses by Jehangir. Guru Ji refused to pay the fine. Guru Ji also rejected all other suggestions of Jehangir.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji said, ”I cannot erase a single word from the Granth Sahib. The hymns which find a place in it are not disrespectful to any religion.”
At this, Guru Arjan Dev Ji was subjected to severe torture. He was made to sit on a hot iron plate with fire burning under it. The hot boiling sand was poured on his head and body. For several days, this process continued. Guru Ji’s body was blistered and burnt.
Guru Ji attained martyrdom on 30th May 1606 when he went to river Ravi for a bath but did not return again.
Guru Ji martyrdom changed the entire character of Sikhism radically from a passive people to courageous saint soldiers.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the 5th Guru of the Sikhs, was the embodiment of Godly devotion, selfless service and universal love. He was the treasure of celestial knowledge and spiritual excellence. He substantially contributed towards the welfare of the society. He stood steadfastly for the principles.
Inder Jeet S. Bhatia ‘Prince’