This weekend we will have an Akhand Paath for the Parkash Divas (birth) of Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
Our fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji was born to parents Guru Ram Das Ji and Bibi Bhani in 1563, in Goindval. Guru Ram Das Ji’s cousin invited him to Lahore for his son’s marriage, however the Guru Ji was busy in sewa and asked his eldest son Prithi Chand to attend. He refused, because he did not want his brother to become Guru while he was gone. Mahadev did not want to go and thus, Arjan went. Guru Ji instructed him to stay to educate the Sikhs until he was called back. Two years passed, and (Guru) Arjan wrote a letter to his father, of love and devotion. Two letters were hidden by Prithi Chand, but the last one had strict instructions to reach the Guru. Reading it, Guru Ji saw that this was labeled as the third letter and asked asked Prithi Chand of any others, who eventually confessed and showed the other letters. Guru Ji was moved by the letters and (Guru) Arjan came home. He went on to be bestowed the Guruship.
He went on to marry Mata Ganga in 1589. Mata Ji went to Baba Buddha Ji to get blessings for a child, and Baba Buddha Ji said “a son will be born to you who will crush the enemies of Nanak’s house, just as I have crushed this onion in my hand” and thus was born Guru Hargobind.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji took care of people affected by Leprosy near Taran Taran Sahib. He provided them with medicine, dressed them, and took care of them even though they were abandoned by their own families. He invited Mian Mir (a Muslim saint) to lay the foundation stone at Harmandir Sahib. He collected the hymns of the Gurus into the Aad Granth and eventually contributed 2218 hymns to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The creation of the Aad Granth preserved Gurbani in its original form, preventing any misinterpretation and distortion from others. I never realized growing up how unique this was, and that the scriptures of other religions had not been written by prophets themselves but followers later on. Guru Ji also wrote Sukhmani Sahib. One interesting note is how Guru Arjan Dev Ji emphasized the singing of kirtan by the sangat themselves as well: “In Guru Angad’s days the professional bards, Satta and Balwand who sang the hymns at the Guru’s Darbar had started to believe their excellence as musicians and singers was responsible for their Guru’s popularity. With his love for music and expertise in the Ragas, Guru Arjan Dev Ji introduced the tradition of singing by the congregants themselves to avoid such egotism" (sikhiwiki.org).
Sikhism was growing rapidly. Hindus and Muslims came to meet Guru Ji. Unfortunately this caused a jealousy and concern among the Mughals. Many people fuelled this, including Chandu Shah. I have mentioned him a few times in my past posts. Remember he was governor of Lahore and a wealthy banker. When his family priest suggested that Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s son (Hargobind) would be a good match for his daughter, he made disparaging remarks about the Guru because he believed he was “upper caste.” Eventually his daughter was getting older and still unmarried, so he changed his mind, however Guru Ji refused knowing his true colors. Chandu Shah turned against Guru Ji and turned Jahangir against Guru Ji. He made up lies that the Aad Granth spoke out against Hindus and Muslims. During Akbars time, he had dismissed these allegations but Jahangir was different and believed this.
On top of this, Khusro, also Akbar’s son, was the one supposed to be in line for the throne after Akbar's death. Muslim Clergy helped Jahangir become ruler because he would instate Shariyat Muslim Law. Meanwhile Khusro had gone to seek the blessings of Guru Ji at Taran Taran, and this meeting was suspicious to Jahangir, who was successful in becoming ruler. He arrested Guru Ji and fined the Sikhs two Lakh rupees and told Guru Ji to remove mentions of Sikh and Muslim religions from the Aad Granth. Guru Ji refused, and Chandu Shah caused the torture of Guru Ji. Guru Ji was imprisoned at Lahore fort in the hot summer months, chained to a post in the sun. Guru Ji sat on a red-hot iron plate, with hot sand and boiling water poured on his body. Mian Mir tried to intercede but Guru Ji said that whatever is done is God’s will. Guru Ji bathed in the waters of the Ravi River in 1606 and merged with the supreme light.
Now as we reflect on Guru Ji’s life, we should think about all the lessons that we can incorporate into our lives such as having faith, acceptance of God’s will, meditation on God in times of difficulty, and to rise above our thoughts to live in the home of the mind. Guru Ji also reminded us that kirtan is not about musical expertise but the devotion that comes from our hearts and therefore we should all sing kirtan in sangat. May we all be inspired by Guru Ji's life.