Guru Arjun being pronounced as fifth Guru
|Born||2 May 1563
Goindval, Tarn Taran, India
|Died||16 June 1606 (aged 43)
|Other names||The Fifth Master|
|Known for||Compiled and installed the Adi Granth, Build the Harmandir Sahib.|
|Predecessor||Guru Ram Das|
|Parents||Guru Ram Das and Mata Bhani|
Guru Arjan(Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਅਰਜੁਨ [ɡʊru əɾdʒən]; (15 April 1563 – 30 May 1606) was the fifth of the eleven Sikh Gurus, the eleventh being the living Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, and the first Sikh martyr. He was born in Goindval, Punjab the youngest son of Guru Ram Das and Bibi Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amar Das.1
Guru Arjan lived as the Guru of Sikhism for a quarter of a century. Guru Arjan completed the construction of Amritsar and founded other cities such as Taran Taran and Kartarpur. The greatest contribution he made to the Sikh faith was to compile all of the past Gurus' writings along with selected writings of other saints from different backgrounds which he considered consistent with the teachings of Sikhism into one book, now the holy scripture: the Guru Granth Sahib. It is, perhaps, the only script which still exists in the form first published (a hand-written manuscript) by the Guru.2
Guru Arjan 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, Langar (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.
Compiling the Adi Granth, Guru Arjan gave Sikhs an example of religious and moral conduct, as well as a rich body of sacred poetry. 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.3 Guru Arjan became famous among his pious devotees and his biographers dwell on the number of Saints and Holy men who were edified by his instructions.3 He was equally heeded by men in high positions. During his time, the teaching and philosophy of Guru 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 Arjan 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 Arjan included the compositions of both Hindu and Muslim saints which he considered consistent with the teachings of Sikhism. In 1606, the Muslim Emperor Jahangir ordered that he be tortured and sentenced to death after he refused to remove all Islamic and Hindu references from the Holy book.4 He was made to sit on a burning hot sheet while boiling hot sand was poured over his body. After enduring five days of unrelenting torture Guru Arjan was taken for a bath in the river. As thousands watched he entered the river never to be seen again.5
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"6 is instructive, though it appears that Jahangir only took action against religious figures he saw as threats to the state.
J.S. Grewal notes that Sikh sources from the seventeenth and eighteenth century contain contradictory reports of Guru Arjan's death.7 Guru Gobind Singh’s memoir, the Bichitra Natak, mentions Guru Arjan only once, to record that "when Arjan departed this life for the divine abode, [the Guru] assumed the form of Hargobind."8
Bhai Gurdas, a contemporary of Guru Arjan and noted Sikh chronicler, recorded his death.9 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.10
A contemporary Jesuit account, written in 1606 by Father Jerome Xavier, who was in Lahore at the time 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.11 The Guru however refused to let a fine be paid for him and even refused when a longtime friend of his, Sai Mian Mir, tried interceding on his behalf. Jahangir tortured Guru Arjan in the hopes of extracting the money, but the Guru refused to give in and so attained martyrdom. The other near-contemporary non-Sikh source, a 1640s chronicle probably written by a Parsi, supports this view.12
Noted Sikh historian Dr. Harjinder Singh Majhail13 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 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".
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 Arjan had clearly given assistance and support to the unpopular renegades within the Imperial ranks.14
- Mcleod, Hew (1997). Sikhism. London: Penguin Books. p. 28. ISBN 0-14-025260-6.
- Mahajan, Vidya Dhar. "Ch. 10". Muslim Rule In India (fifth ed.). p. 232.
- Cunningham, J.D. (1853). "Gooroo Arjoon". A History of the Sikhs. John Murray.
- "Guru Arjan". 26 October 2009. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- "Guru Arjan, 1563-1606". 26 October 2009. BBC. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- Richards, John F. The Mughal Empire, in The New Cambridge History of India. 1, 5. Gen eds. Chris Bayly, Gordon Johnson, John F. Richards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 97.
- J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, in The New Cambridge History of India. 2, 3. Gen eds. Chris Bayly, Gordon Johnson, John F. Richards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 63-64.
- Bachiatr Natak, 5:11Bachiatr Natak, 5:11
- Vir Singh, ed. Varam Bahi Gurdas Satki, 9th edition. New Delhi: Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, 1997), p. 386.
- W. H. McLeod, ed. and trans. The Chaupa Singh Rahit-nama. Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1987), p. 107.
- Father Jerome to Father Gasper Fernandes, (BM add MS 9854, ff. 38-52), 1617, in Sicques, Tigers or Thieves: Eyewitness Accounts of the Sikhs (1606-1809). Eds. Amandeep Singh Madra and Parmjit Singh. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, p. 7.
- Mobad’, Dabistan-i Mazahib, 1645-46, in Sikh history from Persian sources. Eds. J.S. Grewal and Irfan Habib. Indian History Congress: Tulika, 2001. p. 67.
- (2010: pp. 144–146)
- Muhammad Latif, The History of the Panjab (Calcutta, 1891), p. 200.
- Tuzuk-i-Jahagiri or Memoirs of Jahagir, Translated by Alexander Rogers. Edited by Henry Beveridge Published by Low Price Publication. lppindia.com. ISBN 978-81-7536-148-5
- History of the Panjab, Syad Muhammad Latif, Published by: Kalyani Publishers, Ludhiana, Punjab, India. ISBN 978-81-7096-245-8
- Philosophy of 'Charhdi Kala' and Higher State of Mind in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Dr. Harjinder Singh Majhail, 2010, Published by: Deepak Publishers, Jalandhar, Punjab, India. ISBN 81-88852-96-1
- DiscoverSikhism - Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji is the fifth of the Ten Sikh Gurus. Read about his life and stories here.
Guru Ram Das
(24 September 1534 – 1 September 1581)
|Guru Arjan||Followed by:
Guru Har Gobind
(5 July 1595 – 19 March 1644)