Guru Arjan Ji

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Today’s post is about our fifth Guru and our first Shaheedi (martyr) – Guru Arjan Ji.

Guru Arjan Ji was the third son of Guru Ram Das and Bibi Bhani.  It is said that when he was born, his grandfather, Guru Amar Das called him the “Ship of Gurbani” and recognized that the boy was destined to become Guru.  He was born on May 2nd, 1563 at Goindval, India.  He married Mata Ganga and had one son, who would become Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Guru.
Guru Arjan Ji was the first Sikh shaheed or martyr, but before we get to his end, Guruji was important in many other ways.
First, a story from his childhood.
When he was a boy, Arjan was sent to live in Lahore to preach and to live.  He wrote three letters to his father, Guru Ram Das Ji, which would later become bani.  The first letter was intercepted by his elder brother, Prithi Chand, who felt that he was the forerunner for the guruship.  Prithi Chand kept the first letter and the second which he also intercepted.  The letters spoke of how distressed the boy, Arjan, was without his Guru.  He asked to be allowed to return to Amritsar.  He did not understand how there could be no response to his plea until he discovered that the Sikhs he had sent the first two letters with had been intercepted.  He sent a third letter to his father with instructions that it be given only to his father.  He put the number 3 on the letter.  On reading the letter, Guru Ram Das Ji recognized the beauty of his son’s poetry and sent for him.  He also realized that Prithi Chand had hidden the first two letters and so recovered those.  As a result of his devotion to Waheguru, young Arjan was ascended to the guruship at 18 years of age, ahead of his two elder brothers.

Shaheed of Guru Arjan Ji
Guruji is also important for having completed the Harmandir Sahib, designed by Guru Ram Das Ji.  More on the Harmandir Sahib in later posts.  
He was not a poet himself, adding few bani to the works of the Gurus before him but he did compile the Aad Granth which was a compilation of the bani of the Gurus along with poetry and wisdom from other sources (including Muslim and Hindu sources) which did not conflict with Sikhi.  The Aad Granth was such a respected work that it was kept on Guruji’s bed while Guruji slept on the floor.
The Gurus were humble.  A famous story of the humility of Arjan Ji follows.  A sangat from Afghanistan was traveling to Amritsar to meet Guru Arjan.  The trip was a long and tiring one, especially in those days.  Along the road they were met by a Sikh couple who performed seva by helping them rest, rubbing their feet, feeding them and helping them clean up.  When they arrived at Amritsar, the same couple was there to clean their shoes while they went into the temple.  The sangat asked Babu Buddha Ji where the Guru was.  They were told that the Guru had left the temple to meet them.  This confused the sangat having only met the same couple along the way.  When they were introduced they realized that the male of the couple was Guruji.
Another famous story is of a time when Prithi Chand goaded a man named Sulhi Khan to kill Guruji.  Guruji learned of the plot and left it up to God what should happen.  On his way to kill Guruji, Sulhi was thrown into a brick kiln by his horse.  
Mata Ganga Devi had not yet produced a child, leaving hope to Prithi Chand that perhaps his son would ascend to the guruship.  She asked her husband for a blessing so that she would become pregnant.  He told her to go to Baba Buddha for a blessing.  She attended Baba Buddha with a lot of food, dressed in finery and with the trappings of a high world, ready to present him with some high form of langar.  He turned her away saying that he was not hungry.  She approached him again in a simpler manner, with good made from her own hands.  He told her that she would produce a son who would become a warrior and destroyer of armies.  
Emperor Jahangir was outraged that Guruji included the works of Muslim and Hindi scholars in the Aad Granth.  He demanded that those passages be removed.  Guru Argan Ji refused and was captured and tortured to death as a result.  He was made to sit on a hot sheet while boiling hot sand was poured over his body.  For five days he survived this torture and then was taken to the river for a bath.  By all accounts, he sank into the river and was never seen again.  He died on June 16, 1606 at Lahore, Pakistan.  His death would forever change the Sikhs.

To provide more background, Guruji had considered marrying of his son, Hargobind to the daughter of Chandu Shah.  When Chandu Shah first heard of this he laughed at the idea and criticized Guruji.  A proposal then came from Chandu Shah to marry his daughter to marry Hargobind.  The sangat heard of this and asked Guruji to reject the marriage, as Chandu Shah had spoken ill previously.  The marriage was rejected, which in those days was very damaging to the reputation of the girl.  Chandu Shah sought revenge and told Emperor Jahangir that Guruji had supported his liberal and rebellious son, Khusrau, in prior rebellious behaviour against the Emperor.  He described that the Aad Granth criticized Islam and Hinduism.  The Emperor was also angry that many Muslims had converted to Sikhi.  

Unfortunately, Guruji would not be our first and last Shaheedi. In a later post, I’ll share what I’ve learned of our sixth Guru – Guru Hargobind Ji.
Sat Nam readers!