GURU ARJAN DEV JI
Born on April 15, 1563, Guru Arjan Dev ji was the youngest of the three sons of the fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das ji. He was chosen by his father to become the fifth Guru at age 18 over the objections of his eldest brother, Prithi Chand. Below is a short summary of Guru Arjan Dev Ji's life and his contributions:
· Guru Arjan Dev ji gave us our holiest shrine, Harmandir Saheb. He invited a Muslim saint, named Mian Mir, to lay the foundation stone of this holy temple. The temple was constructed by voluntary labor and was completed in 1589.
· One of the most important contributions of Guru Arjan Dev ji is his compilation of the sacred Sikh Holy Book, the Adi Granth (the first holy book). He collected the bani written by the first three Gurus from Baba Mohan ji (son of the third Guru, Guru Amar Das ji), added the bani of the fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das ji, included his own bani, and also the spiritual writings of several saints (Hindus and Muslims) and compiled the holy book. A large number of shabads in the Adi Granth (about 40 %) are written by Guru Arjan Dev ji. One of his well known compositions is Sukhmani Saheb, which is recited by many Sikhs (and Hindus) every day. The Adi Granth was installed in Harminder sahib in 1604. One hundred and four years later, in 1708, Guru Gobind Singh ji made the Adi Granth our Eternal Guru.
· He devoted himself in building other shrines and public welfare activities. He built a major Gurudwara in the middle of a lake in Taran Taran in Punjab. To relieve local people from scarcity of water, he constructed a huge well and fitted with six Persian wheels at a place known as Chheharatta Saheb.
· Guru Arjan Dev ji traveled extensively in Punjab to preach Sikh teachings. During his travels he preached against drinking and encouraged Sikhs to support the rights of widows to remarry. He taught his followers the virtue of self confidence and self-reliance by shedding fear and hatred. His followers regained their courage and were prepared to face hardships. It was due to Guru Arjan Dev ji's encouragement that the Sikhs began to trade in horses and later became the best horse riders in India.
· When Granth Sahib was installed in Harminder Saheb in 1604, Emperor Akbar was ruling India. Guru Arjan Dev ji's elder brother, Prithi Chand (who was against Guruji because he did not get the Guruship) complained to the Emperor that the Sikh Holy Book contained derogatory remarks about Islam. On Akbar's orders, Granth Saheb was brought to him and a Sikh read the holy book randomly from different pages several times. No derogatory remarks about Islam or any other religion were found. Akabr was pleased and dismissed the complaint. Later, he visited Amritsar and met Guru Arjan Dev ji. On Guruji's advice, he exempted the farmers from payment of land revenue because of the prevailing draught in the region.
· After Akbar, his son Jahangir became the Emperor of India. Jahangir was a staunch Muslim with no tolerance for other religions. The growing popularity of Guru Arjan Dev ji and the great increase in number of Sikhs made him extremely concerned. The fact that a great number of Guruji's followers were Muslims made him worried. He was afraid of weakening of his power and loss of prestige He was looking for an excuse to punish the Guru and kill the Sikh movement. The local Muslim officials and an influential Hindu named Chandu were also against Guruji because Guruji's teachings of equality, freedom, and self reliance were against their personal interests.
· Jahangir's son, Khusro, revolted against his father. Khusro was being pursued by Jahangir's forces when he passed through Goindwal, Guru Arjan Dev ji's hometown. In keeping with the Sikh tradition of helping the needy, Guruji gave him shelter and treated him like any other visitor was treated - with respect and dignity. A false charge of helping the enemy was fabricated against Guruji and Jahangir confiscated Guru ji's properties and ordered that the 'Guru be put to death with torture'. The only option given to him was to convert to Islam. Realizing that he would have to sacrifice his life, Guru Arjan Dev ji appointed his son, Hargobind ji, as the next Guru.
· Guru Arjan Dev ji was brought to Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. For five days he was tortured by making him sit in boiling water and on a red hot iron plate and hot sand was poured on his head. His body was burned and blistered but he remained calm, submitting to God's Will. On May 30th, 1606, he was thrown in the river Ravi in Lahore, where his body was carried away by the currents. Guru Arjan Dev ji sacrificed his life to uphold the faith in the face of wickedness and tyranny. His martyrdom shows that goodness must suffer in order to overcome evil, but eventually goodness prevails.