|Guru Amar Das Ji|
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Sat Nam Readers! Today the blog post is about our blessed third Guru – Guru Amar Das Ji. Please again forgive me for any mistakes. I’m bound to make some sometimes.
On May 5th, 1479 Amar Das was born at Basarke Gillan near Amritsar, Punjab in India. His father was a shopkeeper and his mother was Mata Lachmi. He married Mata Mansa Devi and had four children – two sons, Mohan and Mohri, and two daughters, Bibi Bhani and Bibi Dani. Bibi Bhani would later marry the man who would become our fourth Guru, Bhai Jetha.
When Guru Angad Dev Ji died, he was building a town around Goindwal Sahib. Amar Das was to oversee its construction. He was 72 years old when he became Guru Amar Das Ji. He was 95 when he died at Goindwal, having been blessed by the guruship for some 23 years. He died September 1st, 1574.
Prior to becoming a Sikh, Amar Das was a very devout Vaishanavite Hindu. However, he was in search of a Guru and thought to go on a pilgrimage to find one. Recall that his niece by marriage was Bibi Amro, daughter of the second Guru – Guru Angad Dev Ji. Amar Das heard his niece reciting the morning bani – the Japji Sahib and thought to himself “what is this beautiful prayer?” Being a spiritual man, he went to meet our second Guru at Khadur Sahib and stayed on there, becoming a very devout Sikh.
It will become important to know here that Bhai Gurdaas Ji, on whose writings much of Sikh history of the time of the Gurus depends, is a nephew of Guru Amar Das Ji. He is also brother-in-law to the fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das Ji and uncle to the fifth Guru, Guru Arjun. He is a philosopher and poet who left a rich history for subsequent generations of Sikhs.
Guru Amar Das Ji was important for many reasons, not simply because he was our third Guru. He is the author of the Anand Sahib, a bani recited on all important occasions including weddings and funerals and part of our daily nitnem. He also, importantly for the equality of women, abolished the practice of Sati among the Sikhs. Sati was a custom among Hindus where a widow threw herself or was thrown on the funeral pyre of her husband when he died. Re-marriage became available to Sikhs.
He also abolished the custom of Paradah, in which a woman was required to veil or cover her face. Sikh women do not wear veils or cover their faces though most cover their hair and some wear turbans. It is the obligation of men to control their eyes, rather than a woman to cover her beauty.
Guruji also gave us our marriage ceremony – the Anand Karaj, important in the lives of Sikhs. The Hindu ceremony which involved walking around a fire was therefore gone for the Sikhs and replaced with a ceremony where the words of God formed the focus.
He expanded on the concept of langar, making his Sikhs and others at the langar kitchen sit and have meals together, regardless of income, status, or caste, emphasizing the equality of all people. When Emperor Akhbar came to see Guruji, Guruji made him have langar first so that the Emperor would prove that he is equal to others and, more importantly, that others are equal to him.
Emperor Akhbar tried to give money to Guruji, who refused it. The Emperor then decided that Guru Amar Das Ji would not be taxed nor would his Sikhs for traveling on pilgrimages (Hindus were taxed). Naturally, the tax collectors realized that Hindus were saying they were with Guru Amar Das Ji to avoid paying the taxes.
He also abolished the idea of an untouchable class, a concept which he detested. He also set up a systematic system of preaching, with a Manji system which was responsible for gurdwaras, kirtan, and collect dasvandh. He set up piris or preachers, more than one-third of which were women.
Guru Amar Das Ji, despite his age, was very devoted to seva to the sangat, bringing water from the river his predecessors bath. This seva would become a very important part of his ascension to the guruship. One morning while he was drawing the water from the river in the early morning hours, he tripped and fell. Others looked at him and laughed at him, saying that he had no place among them. Guru Angad Dev Ji then said “He can have my place.” and offered Amar Das a seat beside him before passing on the light to the man who became Guru Amar Das Ji.
His ascension to the guruship was not without controversy as well, as Guru Angad Dev Ji’s son, Bhai Dattu Ji claimed the guruship for himself, criticized Guru Amar Das Ji and kicked him. Bhai Dattu Ji, realizing what he had done, asked forgiveness for this act of the ego. He came to realize that he was not Satguru and the controversy ended when Guru Amar Das Ji returned to Goindwal.
He was the last Guru from outside of the family lines of the previous Gurus.
Bhai Jetha Ji was a Sikh of Guru Amar Das Ji. He was an orphan who loved seva and did a lot of seva in Goindwal Sahib. When it came time for Guru Amar Das Ji’s daughter to be married, the family chooses Bhai Jetha Ji for Bibi Bhani. When asked what sort of gift he wanted for the marriage, he says that he wants nothing but the Naam, the light of God.
As he was dying, Guru Amar Das Ji instructed that no-one should cry for him. In India, it had become tradition to hire wailers to attend deaths to cry for the deceased. However, the point of Anand Sahib, the last bani at a funeral is that it is a song of joy, so the act of wailing at funerals ceased as a practice for Sikhs. We are leaving to join Waheguru after all.
Also, before he died, he clearly established Bhai Jetha Ji as the next Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Ram Das Ji. Little controversy occurred because those who refused to accept Guru Ram Das Ji as the successor, Guru Amar Das Ji had them brought to bow before the Satguru. In this way, there was less controversy over the ascension of the fourth Guru and more peace among the sangat.
Our third Guru made important prohibitions during his guruship, entrenching the important concept of equality among Sikhs and others. He set important standards for our behaviour and for our important life ceremonies, giving us the daily gift of Anand Sahib.
So where do we learn more about Guruji and Sikhi? Basics of Sikhi is a good place to start. They have hundreds of videos on Sikhi on their YouTube Channel.
Sat Nam Readers until next we read about our fourth Guru.